The Wrap has gone to print, so to speak, with the hot topic du jour of the Los Angeles Times newsroom: the reasons, allegedly, for critic-at-large Sasha Frere-Jones to abruptly leave the paper's staff. According to The Wrap, there were expense report discrepancies involving a strip club, a free trip to Joshua Tree National Park paid for by Dom Perignon, and a promise of coverage at Coachella. As I reported Sunday night, Frere-Jones is out less than a year after joining the Times under a special deal in which he did not report to any of the editors who oversee arts or culture coverage, but to the managing editor for editorial strategy, S. Mitra Kalita. He did some stories but did not make much of a splash while with the Times, which hired him as it was cutting back in other areas of coverage and going generally with younger journalists with less national reputations than Frere-Jones, for 10 years the pop critic of the New Yorker.
The Wrap did not reach Frere-Jones for comment and the Times spokeswoman said she would not go into the reasons for his leaving except to say, "With his permission, I can tell you that he decided to transition to freelance so he could focus on writing a book, which is under contract with FSG.”
From The Wrap story:
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Frere-Jones recently filed a $5,000 expense report for a venue that the paper discovered was actually a strip club.
Asked to explain, Frere-Jones said he was writing an article about a rapper. But according to the insider, the rapper’s representatives told the paper that no interview had taken place.
In addition, a source close to the situation said that Frere-Jones had accepted a luxury trip sponsored by Dom Pérignon to The Joshua Tree National Park in April — a freebie that is considered a no-no by most mainstream news organizations.
After Frere-Jones canceled at the last minute, the champagne company called the newsroom to check if anyone else might be interested in going in his place. That was apparently news to the paper’s editors, who also investigated an allegation that the writer had promised Coachella coverage to an artist in exchange for free transportation to the event.
Photo: Capital New York