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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New Yorker's Los Angeles Times Story


Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet

Here's an advance PDF of Ken Auletta's story on the rift between the Los Angeles Times and the Babbitts at the Tribune Co. I may or may not have more to say tomorrow, but here's my favorite passage:
In Los Angeles, [Tribune Publishing chief Scott] Smith is sometimes described as "an empty suit"—a frequent term in newsrooms for a paper's corporate overseers. Leo Wolinsky recalls a meeting soon after he was appointed: "We were talking about good things we were doing and how we were trying to hire the best people. He said, 'I don’t think you always have to hire the best people.' I was so stunned I didn’t follow up. I may be wrong, but I worried that it meant he did not necessarily mean to hire the best. He wanted us to hire the cheapest." Smith denies saying this. Carroll was there, and although he does not remember Smith's words, he recalls that "several things he said caused concern." He also says, referring to Smith, "Every time I mentioned the idea that the Los Angeles Times should be among the four best papers, I had the feeling it made people uncomfortable. Nobody ever said we shouldn’t do it. But nobody ever said, Yes, that’s a good idea."

Smith is viewed more enthusiastically by Ann Marie Lipinski, who joined the Chicago Tribune as an intern in 1978, right after college, and whom he appointed editor in 2001. Lipinski acknowledges the "ongoing conversation" at all newspapers about "how you balance the social mission with the economics," but she says that Smith "talks a lot about the social mission of the paper, and it's music to my ears. I don't know that every editor is as fortunate to have somebody minding the store who actually understands the value of that as deeply as he does." When Lipinski's words were repeated to Smith, he smiled and said the sort of thing that journalists like to hear people say about them. At the Tribune, he said, he "learned how a journalist thinks about serving readers every day, great storytelling, and what really matters in terms of our public role as well as our commercial role."
Isn't that just adorable?