"Hmm. Seems like there’s something different about the newsroom today," LA Times national reporter Matt Pearce tweeted.
Our occasional roundup of news and notes. As always, between posts you can keep up with LA Observed on Twitter — now with 24,550 followers.
Days of discord are back at the Los Angeles TimesNew editor in chief Lewis D'Vorkin held his first gathering in the LA Times newsroom last week and by most accounts it didn't go so well. I mean, just look at the faces. In this photo, circulating among the vast network of former Los Angeles Times journalists, you can feel the skepticism aimed D'Vorkin's way. Probably two-way: they don't know him except by reputation, and he doesn't know them. But it didn't help that he couldn't assuage newsroom doubts about the "productive discussions" that Disney claims it held with the new Times leadership, leading the company to publicly drop its outrageous attempt to squeeze the Times into providing more favorable coverage.
D'Vorkin apparently wants a do-over. His first leaked email reveals that he has called a second newsroom gathering for Monday afternoon, and that he and publisher Ross Levinsohn spoke to the New York Times media writer on Friday.
Ross and I had a productive on-the-record chat last Friday with Sydney Ember of The NYT. We talked about our shared vision for the path forward for The LA Times, as well as other matters. In turn, Sydney shared a startling piece of information resulting from her reporting.
I have much on my mind about our incredibly exciting future. And I would like to share some of what I told Sydney about my journalistic beliefs and where I hope they take The Times. So, let’s gather for a second newsroom chat on Monday(tomorrow) at 2:30 pm. I look forward it.
If there's an NYT story coming, it hasn't posted yet. But there's lots to talk about. The Disney flap — in which film critics across the country refused to screen and review Disney films after the company banned the LA Times in a fit over Disneyland coverage — has been the talk of Hollywood and media circles. Politico media observer Jack Shafer says that Disney clearly won the showdown.
The brazen and petty way Disney challenged the leading paper of the West Coast hints that the long-standard balance between the press and the powerful has changed...Upon lifting the boycott, it declared victory, stating, “We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at the Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics.”
Meanwhile, former LA Times senior editor, columnist and reporter Jim Newton is hammering the paper on Twitter for its lack of transparency on the Disney controversy. While the story was raging across the city and the country, D'Vorkin's LA Times never covered it. He reportedly told editors to ignore it as a media spat nobody cares about, but Newton tweeted, "When two of LA’s most important institutions clash, seems like news."
Imagine my surprise not to find a full explainer this weekend about The Times’ productive talks with Disney. I assume someone’s putting that together. Trust is fragile.— Jim Newton (@newton_jim) November 12, 2017
Nobody is saying it's like 2006 (and here) or 2007 again around the Times, when the amount of tumult in that newsroom and the executive offices was simply unbelievable. But some LA Times alumni are already speculating on D'Vorkin's eventual exit from the scene. For sure his words are going to be newsworthy for awhile. His comments are already said to be encouraging more signups to the emerging newsroom guild.
Supporters of the newsroom union drive have been gathering expressions of support from other guild journalists across the country. This is from the New York Times newsroom:
New LA Weekly taking shapeWe still don't know who has bought the LA Weekly — or why they are hiding in the shadows — but here's a big clue about the alt-weekly's new direction. The guy in charge will be Brian Calle, who for several years has been the editor in charge of the Orange County Register's editorial page, and when the Register joined the SoCal News Group in 2015 he became opinion editor of the Daily News and all of the chain's papers. Yes, the LA Weekly, for its first couple of decades an organ of the local left, will now be run by the libertarian-leaning keeper of the region's conservative newspaper opinion pages.
He gave a pep talk for true believers of the right in 2013, saying "Whatever you want to label it – the conservative movement, libertarianism, or, as I describe myself, a free-market enthusiast – the philosophy is one borne of bold ideas, enthusiasm and optimism, not doomsday prophecy, complacency or defeatism." But he also stressed that libertarian does not equal Republican and vowed to open up the pages to more views across the spectrum.
At the LA Weekly, Calle told the LA Times, the editorial bent won't change right away and he said, "LA Weekly has the ability to be the cultural center of the community....I just have such a reverence for what LA Weekly is and what it does.” Not so much for those who do it, apparently. The Weekly's dozen editorial staffers will be losing their jobs, the LAT story says, though Calle said he hopes to re-hire some of them.
The OC Weekly, which remains left-leaning and regularly skirmishes with the Register, calls Calle "one of Orange County's scariest people." From a piece by OC Weekly managing editor Nick Schou:
While the true nature of LA Weekly's new ownership remains unclear, the fact that Calle has been picked to head up the newspaper bodes ill for anyone who cares about the city of Los Angeles or its journalism. The paper has already suffered from years of decline under its previous owners, Voice Media Group, previously Village Voice Media and originally New Times...
Back to Calle. He's 37 and looks nice in a suit. (One can almost imagine him showing up for his first day on the job in a starched shirt and bow tie with a copy of Atlas Shrugged under his arm). For the Register, he's written a seemingly endless screed of libertarian-slanted editorials, which, as is typical with libertarian politics, occasionally promote policies (like ending the prohibition of marijuana) that are completely reasonable and half of which are ideological tripe (charter schools will save our youth, etc.) But beyond that, and despite a dubious stint as a Chapman University journalism professor, he has almost no actual journalism experience, nor any connection whatsoever to Los Angeles.
Well, he did go to USC, serves on the alumni association board, and got an M.A. in communications from Cal State LA. He has a show on talk radio KABC 790 and was formerly at the Claremont Institute. Calle's Twitter feed. The marijuana editorials in his past are interesting given that the only person known to be part of Semanal Media, the shadowy buyer of the LA Weekly, is a lawyer for medical marijuana interests. It's hard to imagine the LA Weekly could ever write more about pot than it already does, but maybe the new owners just want a certain slant.
Gal Gadot flexes her cloutHere's how it works when the system is working. Gal Gadot, the star of the breakout hit "Wonder Woman," has a lot of new power as a box office draw. She is in line to do the WW sequel, but she has reportedly made it known she won't be back while Hollywood creep Brett Ratner's company still has a financing deal with Warner Bros to share in the profits.
"She’s tough and stands by her principles," a Warners' "insider" told Page Six. "She also knows the best way to hit people like Brett Ratner is in the wallet. She also knows that Warner Bros. has to side with her on this issue as it develops." The LA Times reported on Nov. 1 that six women, including actresses Natasha Henstridge and Olivia Munn, were accusing Ratner of sexual harassment or other misconduct. Then last week, actress Ellen Page posted on Facebook that, when she was 18 and meeting the cast and crew of "X-Men: The Last Stand," Ratner gestured to Page and told a woman on the film “You should fuck her to make her realize she’s gay." At the time, Page was not out to Ratner or anyone else. "I was a young adult who had not yet come out to myself," she posted. Actress Anna Paquin tweeted over the weekend that she was there and backs Page's account.
The hits keep coming. Variety's Gene Maddaus reports that New Line Cinema received a sexual harassment complaint about Ratner more than a decade ago and did nothing. Ratner denies through his lawyer doing anything bad to anybody ever.... Jeremy Piven also denies any accusations, and George Takei.
Talkers: Manohla Dargis in the NYT on Louis C.K. and Hollywood’s Canon of Creeps... Fear is everywhere: a quiet paranoia haunts post-Weinstein Hollywood from Rory Carroll in the Guardian.
Who is Sallie Hofmeister?The latest names to fall are Louis C.K. and Brett Ratner, but let's not forget that this whole Hollywood sexual harassment story — it's only been a little more than a month, folks — began with revelations about Harvey Weinstein. The latest, by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, told an amazingly sordid tale of the steps Weinstein and his legal team, including David Boies, took in the past year to cover his tracks and try to intimidate victims and reporters, including the use of agents who posed as fake activists and journalists to befriend Rose McGowan and cozy up to reporters in hopes of finding out who was saying what about Weinstein. The story has other journalists talking Pulitzer for Farrow, and the NYT's Jodi Kantor, who has broken her share of Weinstein stories, praised the story. "Craziest story I’ve ever reported, and a rare professional experience that made me fear for my safety," Farrow said.
In the New Yorker piece, and all the others about Weinstein, there appears the name Sallie Hofmeister. She's the spokeswoman who gives pretty much the same statement every time, defending Weinstein and implying that his accusers are not to be believed. But pretty much everybody does believe them, especially in the Hollywood and media circles where Hofmeister usually lives. So who is she and why does she say such things?
Hofmeister is a former senior editor at the Los Angeles Times whose career moves are familiar to regular LA Observed readers. She left her position as assistant managing editor for arts and entertainment in 2012 and surfaced some months later at Sitrick and Company, the crisis PR firm in LA that has employed a number of former reporters. The move to Sitrick surprised some colleagues, who knew Hofmeister as the LAT's first female business section editor, a business reporter herself for 11 years who covered News Corp and Hollywood, and before that an an editor and reporter for six years in the New York Times business section.
Two stories this weekend look at why Hofmeister would choose to be be such a visible mouthpiece for Weinstein. New York Magazine's Kaitlin Menza takes the deeper look.
“It’s not about a new public image, but rather to make sure that the facts are as accurately and fairly reported as possible,” Hofmeister told the Cut of her role in Weinstein’s case. And indeed, she’s less booking his apology tour than she is providing measured, lawyerly responses to the media as new accusations emerge. “Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events,” she said following Lupita Nyong’o’s New York Times op-ed. “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” she said after Gwyneth Paltrow and other big names came forward with their own accusations, on October 10....
While it’s not surprising for a journalist to move into public relations, what is particularly interesting in Hofmeister’s case is that a woman with a history of tearing into studio heads and championing female journalists is now representing a man accused of very serious and extensive sexual misconduct. It’s a decision that has left many of her former colleagues and those who know her shocked.... “There were audible gasps in the newsroom when we saw it was Sallie representing Weinstein,” says one Times staffer. “Our in-boxes, our group text messages: Everyone just kept saying, ‘Oh my god, it’s Sallie?!’”
Does she believe he is innocent of all 100 (and counting) accusations, or that he’s a good person who can change? “Mr. Weinstein has been in intensive therapy for more than a month and plans to continue his treatment indefinitely,” she said. “He says he is committed to becoming a better person and, as we know, Mr. Weinstein is nothing if not determined.”
Page Six in the New York Post also examined Hofmeister this weekend. "Friends who described Hofmeister as a staunch feminist, generous friend and promoter of young professional women, say they are disappointed that she has become the public 'apologist' for Weinstein.and her role."
Media notesRadhika Jones, editorial director of the books department at The New York Times, is expected to be named the next editor of Vanity Fair, possibly as soon as Monday, the NYT reports. She would succeed Graydon Carter... Liz Smith, the longtime New York gossip columnist whose Newsday column ran in the LA times for awhile, died Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 94... Breitbart News has sent a team of reporters to Alabama in hopes of discovering flaws in the Washington Post expose on Republican candidate Roy Moore and save him from losing to a Democrat... Turning the prime-time Fox News lineup into "a Trump safe space" has been a ratings win for the network, which used to ask hard questions of Trump and his followers... ESPN will lay off more than 100 additional staffers after the Thanksgiving holidays, multiple sources tell Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch. ... Jerry Brown, President of the Independent Republic of California, by David Siders in Politico.... How ProPublica's journalists fought back against email bombing attacks, in Wired.
LA Times gets fooled on Vegas shooting story: Back on Nov. 1, the Times ran a story about Sheri Sletten, a Murrieta woman who said she had helped save the life of a man was shot in the Las Vegas massacre and had spent weeks trying to find out what happened to him. After doubts were raised about Sletten's account, the Times posted an editor's note on Nov. 3:
After this story was posted, the chief subject of the article, Sheri Sletten, told the Times that her account of reuniting with gunshot victim Matt Lewan after he was released from the hospital was false. That meeting did not occur. Lewan’s family says that while Sletten was present on the night Lewan was shot, Lewan’s father and a family friend administered the most important lifesaving aid.
Media people doing stuffWhen on-air talent leaves a local TV station, the first sign is usually that they are scrubbed from the website. That happened recently with ABC 7 politics reporter and fill-in anchor Elex Michaelson. His Channel 7 social media pages are gone too, but on Instagram he confirms that he's happy to not be wearing suits anymore. "Enjoying time off between jobs," he posts. On Medium, Michaelson shared his reflections recently on covering the Las Vegas shootings and being sent to Houston to help the ABC station there cover the Hurricane Harvey aftermath... LA Times Sacramento reporter Chris Megerian is shifting east to Washington to help the D.C. bureau cover the Russia investigation for a few months, starting today... CNN's Brian Stelter is a consultant on the new Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon series about morning TV for Apple. It's based in part on Stelter's book... Diana Nyad, the Olympic swimmer and former LA radio personality, wrote first-person for the New York Times about sexual abuse by her swimming coach... David Poland has done so many Hollywood interviews at the Four Seasons on Doheny that he notices when the rooms get new furniture.
Vin Scully boycotting the NFL: Tom Hoffarth's media column for the SoCal Media News Group examines what Scully actually said about the NFL players who protest during the national anthem, what some of the response has been, and some new comments by Scully. Looks to me like an underlying issue is that Scully mistakenly thinks that playing the national anthem at sporting events is about supporting veterans. It's not clear to me that he knows what the players who kneel are actually protesting, or whether Scully has ever spoken out about America's racism problem. As the Dodgers voice, Scully was always a champion of Jackie Robinson, who wrote in his memoir that as a discriminated-against black American, “I cannot stand and sing the anthem." Of course, it's up to Scully whether he watches football on Sundays.