Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thinking different

It’s easy to fault Andres Martinez, the former editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, for foolishly hiring the client of his girlfriend, a flack, to be guest editor of the freshly killed op-ed section of Sunday’s paper. But that’s not the worst of it.

While there are ample and obvious reasons to criticize the circumstances surrounding the selection of producer Brian Grazer as the guest editor of Current, the thing that gripes me even more is that this rare honor was given to a successful, white, fifty-something, professional man who is just like the successful, white, fifty-something professional men who largely control the media. The major difference between Brian and most media practitioners is that he is a little – OK, a lot – wealthier than they are.

If the bosses at the L.A. Times wanted some different thinking in their op-ed pages, why couldn’t they think different?

Andres’ stunt, fully detailed here by the courageous Jim Rainey who outed a senior editor of his own paper, was the last thing the demoralized Times needed after years of angrily departing editors, sacked publishers, tumbling circulation, weakening revenues and accelerating profit demands from its embattled corporate parent. Andre resigned today to protest the publisher's decision to scrap the upcoming op-ed section.

Although the idea of installing temporary alterative leadership at Current was innovative and laudable, the aforementioned indiscretion was not the worst part of its execution.

Instead of turning the paper’s Sunday dignity page over to a Hollywood dignitary, the Times could have given the honors to any number of people whose views are not ordinarily reflected in media coverage.

Some examples that come to mind are a resident of Baghdad, an illegal Mexican immigrant, a Los Angeles public school teacher, a cop, a homeless person, an unemployed autoworker, a cancer researcher, some foreign-exchange college students, a visual artist, an uninsured individual devastated by medical bills or, most daring of all, a media critic. If the Times feels absolutely obliged to install a rich guy from the entertainment industry, why not get one of the founders of YouTube?

With proper execution next time around, this good idea deserves to survive this scandal.


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