Retired USC Annenberg professor and CBS News correspondent Murray Fromson writes at the Huffington Post that Sam Zell has gotten off too easy for destroying the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau. (Case in point: The Times' website is running the same AP story available to the Daily News and the Podunk Telegraph on the ascension of local congressman Henry Waxman to a powerful chairmanship. I'm told that editors in Los Angeles can't easily assign national political stories out of Washington or shape daily coverage by the new Chicago-directed Tribune bureau.) Fromson rails:
It's unfortunate that there was not an angel with sufficient capital to outbid the interlopers from the Windy City for the right to keep the Times in the hands of local owners.
Neither the Chicago Tribune or its subsequent owner, Sam Zell, have understood the degree to which the Times' reporters and editors in Washington helped subscribers and other readers in Southern California and beyond understand the complexities of national politics. Neither television or the internet did that. By wielding the axe, Zell displayed the same mentality as the nation's bankers and automobile executives and we all know what they've done lately for society as a whole. He reminded me of the arrogant executives like Larry Tisch who invaded the television networks in the early 1980s, underhandedly preaching their contempt of the journalists on their payrolls. They hated the newsmen, not for what they said, but for what they cost.
Too bad Zell never met Otis Chandler. He might have come to understand that people of means do not have to be sneaky about what they say to their employees. By being straight forward they commanded loyalty.
it was more than numbers that distinguished the Times' reporting by its Washington-based correspondents. Gaylord Shaw, David Wilman, Alan Miller and Kevin Sack won Pulitzer Prizes. Nelson, Ron Ostrow and Bob Jackson were widely praised for their coverage of Watergate; Mike Wines and McManus for their Iran Contra reporting. The list went on and on, winning recognition for the scoop on Timothy McVeigh following coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, for the Times' expose of Curveball, the alleged source for Iraq's false weapons of mass destruction and for the corruption charges against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.
In a few weeks, the nation will be on the verge of dramatic change with the emergence of a new Administration. That will require more and not less aggressive reporting from Washington.
Sounds as if Fromson doesn't think LAO's post last week did sufficient justice to what happened.
Noted: LATimes.com now has a Times staff story up on Waxman, time-stamped 10:15 am. The AP story was up for a couple of hours.