Allison Silver, now a producer on "The Charlie Rose Show," edited the Sunday Opinion section in the L.A. Times for ten years before moving over in 2000 to be an editor on "Week in Review" at the New York Times. She reacts at the Huffington Post not to the love life and resignation of Andrés Martinez but to the precipitating event of the past week's Spring Street debacle: the "quirky stunt" of naming a Hollywood figure such as Brian Grazer to guest-edit the LAT's Current section, regardless of whether his PR person is the real editor's girlfriend.
Assembling a Sunday analysis section is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle each week. Editors have to fit complex, jagged subjects into a neat, cohesive whole.
It's always more complicated than it looks, because when everything works the entire product looks inevitable. The final printed pages seem obvious. Of course that topic is covered; of course that person is writing. But the deputy editor and I, along with the art director, worked long and hard to get that mix right. Week in, week out.
This is why I was sad to hear that The Los Angeles Times had decided to allow a "guest editor" from outside journalism to control its ideas section, which is now called "Current." I understand it is just the sort of quirky stunt that some would think could revitalize readership. But there is more at play here.
Editing is not a hobby, any more than teaching elementary school, producing a television show or running a political campaign is. The way I see it, the public debate, continual and intense, is like a huge mural that readers are looking at and trying to get a handle on. My job, any editor's job, is to give them easy access. It is as if I were holding up an empty frame to a specific part of the canvas, focusing in on one aspect of the wide-ranging discussion. This frame could be provided by an historian or an economist, a political analyst or cultural commentator, a constitutional scholar or a former diplomat; an intelligence expert or a humor writer.
Speaking more specifically to Grazer, music industry blogger Bob Lefsetz writes at his site:
What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where a vile sycophantic punk like Brian Grazer, based on success in the entertainment business, mostly appealing to a lowbrow audience, is given reign over the L.A. "Times" editorial section?