I've never felt the need to do this before, but it seems prudent to alert the Los Angeles Times staffers who help me stay informed about the inner workings of the paper. According to multiple sources at the Times, new publisher Eddy Hartenstein has been calling it "treason" for employees to share information with LA Observed. Now, it's easy to dismiss his rhetoric as beginner jitters — history has seen plenty of media publishers who naively try to muzzle the journalists who work for them, only to learn that it can't be done. (Never mind that it's antithetical to why the paper exists.) Before Hartenstein arrived in August, the Times gave up fretting about the newsroom memos we post here and started publishing them too, sometimes first. LA Observed is no longer blocked on employee computers at the LAT's Olympic printing plant (or at KTLA Channel 5) and the link to LA Observed was restored to the blogroll at the Times' local news blog after pointedly being dropped. (After all, Zell did decree no more censoring.)
And yet, solid sources have let me know that current Times leadership is unhappy enough (or paranoid enough) about stuff getting out to consider action against staffers. I don't know if Hartenstein is thin-skinned enough to retaliate — especially given Sam Zell's famously relaxed rule book — but he is throwing around the t-word. So take precautions — use your personal email, our PO box, or pick up the phone — and don't presume they aren't watching. And be assured that I will continue to report accurately on the Times with your help and, as always, will never divulge my sources.
I emailed Hartenstein and Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan about the treason comments a couple of days ago and have not heard back.
Unrelated, let's hope: Tell Zell, the blog that claims it is written anonymously by a Times staffer, has only updated twice in the past month and has yet to mention this week's new wave of buyouts and threatened layoffs that socked the battered LAT newsroom in the gut. Sources tell me Times bosses have been mightily interested in discovering who writes Tell Zell and have a watch list of suspects -- but really, does the most troubled newspaper in the U.S. over the past couple of years have time to worry about stuff like that?
Latest: Panic mode, again, at L.A. Times