On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported that, “In a major shakeup ofits editorial pages,” it “…was discontinuing one of its most liberal columnists.”
Three days later that columnist, Robert Scheer, had 150 people aboard The Nation‘s (8th) annual cruise crammed into the Queen’s Lounge listening to his take on life, liberty, leisure, lies, the state of journalism and what’s going on at the LA Times. The Nation‘s John Nichols led the conversation. Here are a few extracts from Scheer’s spirited sprint through the last decades and days:
“From the company’s point of view, it was a dumb move…If only they wereinterested in sales and profits–be better newspapers. This was a stupidmanagement decision, A bad marketing decision…Let’s go bland and safe. “
“The publisher is a wise guy accountant, a bean counter from Chicago. These guys come in from Chicago. They don’t know the community, and buying the LA Times may be illegal. The Chicago Tribune already owns a TV station in same market and they’re going to need a waiver request which comes up next year.The publisher/bean counter’s Pasadena golf buddies probably warned him about me–that flaming leftie. Now, (Times founder) Otis Chandler was no liberal but he understood his community. The paper is in decline. They have 300,000 fewerreaders now than when I went to work there nearly thirty years ago….The Times needed me more than I need it…I always have two or three balls inthe air at same time…That’s why I teach full-time at USC’s Journalism school, do my radio show, write books. It’s the only way to live. I’ve been preparing for this moment for 30 years. I wrote this column for 13 years and never missed a deadline.
Probably the main reason they got rid of me was O’Reilly and Limbaugh made a living out of attacking me, pounding, pounding away and doing mass mailing campaigns against me and using me as a punching bag. But I’m still standing; the paper may collapse….Would never go back to LA Times, and I start at the San Francisco Chronicle next week. They called Wednesday to offer me a column. And my syndicate stood behind me, and the syndicate’s editor, a conservative, was quoted in Editor & Publisher saying he was 100 percent behind me. And it’s the same syndicate which runs O’Reilly’s column.
These bean counters from Chicago are so cowardly that the day after the paper wonfive Pulitzers they flew into LA and met with chief editors at Burbank airport hotel to let them know of cuts. This corporation doesn’t understand that the paper belongs to readers and they forget that it’s not just shareholders and wider profit margins thatcount.” Bob then broke some news: “And this week, they’re going to lay off over 70 editorial people.”
“They may own the paper but they don’t own the readers. And LA is the greatest cityin the world, and it deserves a great newspaper. Send emails and make them aware that if they want to keep readers, they got to be smarter. Let them know readers don’t like being treated with contempt. I know there’s shock in the Times building; every switchboard jammed, emails streaming in.” [One estimate is that close to 10,000 e-mails have come in; on Saturday, the paper ran a series of articulate, intelligent, reasoned and serious letters protesting Scheer’s ouster.] “I hear the publisher is walking around in a daze. Didn’t anticipate these protests, the level of outrage. Every complaint you send will give space to others who want to do bold, brave reporting.”
And don’t worry about Scheer. Two weeks from now, he launches his new website, TruthDig.com. “I think of A.J. Liebling, who said ‘freedom of the press belongs to those who own one’ and fortunately, now I own one. I think of the site as Ramparts on speed.”
“I don’t like to get bummed out,” Scheer said. “Hey, reports of my end are premature. I am not into suffering. Want to enjoy life, act on my passions, write about the truth. And I will.”