Al Martinez explains his return

MartinezFor the past few days, the Times has been promoting the re-appearance of columnist Al Martinez in the California section and, sort of, admitting that the paper feels it screwed up by axing him last month. In today's debut in the new, improved venue, Martinez gives his side of how his retirement was put on hold and he got moved up from the back pages of Calendar.

The reanimation began with Times Editor Jim O'Shea asking me to lunch. The only reason editors have ever asked me to lunch was to tell me that I was doing everything all wrong, so naturally I was hesitant. I ultimately concluded that he was simply going to explain my ouster in more corporate terms....

What O'Shea wanted was to apologize for the abrupt manner in which I was tossed to the dingoes and to ask if I would like to return one day a week. I indicated I would, but not down there in the basement, crunched between the movie ads and the comic strip "Zits." He said we'd work it out.

Meanwhile, my situation, or lack of, was noted in a dozen or so blogs as an example of what was happening to Otis Chandler's old newspaper. National Public Radio interviewed me several times, and the local Topanga Messenger put me on its front page accompanied by a photograph that resembled an abandoned basset hound. "How could you not love me?" the picture begged....

During 15 minutes of unemployment, I came to realize the connections I had made with those to whom I had directed millions of words over the past years. It was like an army had assembled, and the battle cry was to bring the old guy back. It worked. I am here in a better place than I was, doing what I like to do, trying to ignore the feeling that I remain in a pro tem status, realizing that in a certain way we are all pro tem.

Here's our May 23 post announcing that Martinez had been axed, his email about it, and the original canned responses from O'Shea and Times Publisher David Hiller.

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