Last night, about 75 former Los Angeles Times employees attended a cocktail party at the Brentwood home of former Mayor and LA Pooh-bah Richard Riordan. According to former LAT journalists who attended, the gathering was the result of a question Riordan asked a friend and member of the '15 buyout class: Was the paper having any kind of a party for the massive numbers of people who were leaving?
"No," was the answer.
"Then I will," Riordan said, and delivered a classy, catered affair last night with valet parking and the respectful acknowledgment of what the paper had lost in institutional memory and journalistic experience. According to one attendee's calculations, more than 2,000 years of experience were represented by the 92 people who left (not all of whom were journalists).
I wasn't at the party, so this report is hearsay. But what I heard was from people known for accurate reporting even more than for the gossip in which members of our professional also love to indulge.
I'm glad that someone celebrated the people whose absence from The Times has further diminished a paper cast adrift not only because of the exigencies of the business but because of deficient leadership. I was a member of The Times layoff class of '09, when 9 of the 13 members of our department were excused from our jobs, euthanizing the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. Then-Editor Russ Stanton was gracious and present as we were losing our jobs, but we got no face time from then-Publisher Eddy Hartenstein, who chose to attend a birthday party for an editor in the Calendar section instead of delivering in person our bad news.
Leave it to an outside businessman to take care of the paper's human resources.
From all accounts, Riordan's party was fun, which is in seriously short supply these days at Tribune Mirror Square. I doubt anyone at the party will report anything negative about The Times because all buyout-takers signed a clause that they could not be critical of the paper or they could be sued and lose their windfall.
But I heard that many of the people at Riordan's house last night said they would have stayed at the paper if Editor Davan Maharaj and Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, the widely loathed masthead toppers whose toxic presence is poisoning the premises, had gone.
Happily, however, many of the Riordan revelers have found other important, engaging positions, and, according to one, are "relieved to have escaped The Times."
Good for them. Bad for anybody who wants to read a really good paper.