April 3, 2007
Veteran journalist Tim Rutten comes down hard on his alma mater, the Los Angeles Times, today. The future of the newspaper is on the brink of sale to yet another out-of-towner, and one suspects that his is the voice of the entire editorial staff.
The paper is about to go private, to the tune of around 12 billion dollars, submitting to the demands of stockholders, says Rutten, putting the new company basically in the position of a college student who has achieved financial independence from Mom and Dad by maxing out a Visa card.
He then goes after the founding family:
“After more than 120 years, the Chandler family will be out of the newspaper business. Good riddance.
“Southern California and this newspaper’s role in its development made the Chandlers rich beyond any normal human being’s wildest dreams. All the heavy lifting, of course, was done by their rapacious forbearers and, later, by Otis Chandler, who broke with the rest of his venal clan to make The Times a great newspaper.
“The current beneficiaries of all that brutal avarice and ingenuity are wealthy through no effort of their own. They’re like a bunch of Saudi princelings, whose grandfather’s wretched tent just happened to be pitched atop an oil field. Their blood is a kind of genetic lottery ticket.
“You’d think that sort of great fortune would have engendered some sense of gratitude — perhaps even a vague stirring of unfamiliar emotions, like … say … responsibility toward the city and region upon which their family has fattened for so long. Some of that sense of grateful obligation might even have included a small inclination to make sure that The Times continues to make itself of service to this community.
“The truth of the matter is, however, that — except for Otis — the Chandlers never have conceived of this newspaper as anything much more than agent or — in recent years — adjunct of their own financial interests.
“One does not speak of emotions like gratitude or loyalty when discussing the Chandlers, any more than one would ascribe those qualities to wolves. It simply is part of their nature to acquire and consume. They eat because that’s what they do.”
We are told that the Chandler family trusts own 20% of Tribune, the current Chicago based publishers, by selling (out?) the paper and the rest of the Times Mirror company for $8 billion, nearly as much as is now being proposed to take the company private. The Chandlers’ share will come to about $1.6 billion, if it goes through.
“Talk about clasping an asp to your bosom” he goes on.
“This newspaper now has been sold twice in five years, to accomplish the impossible — satiating the Chandlers’ greed.
“Take it from somebody who spent a lot of years working for them: If these people thought there was another nickel to be made off the Los Angeles Times by selling it to the North Koreans, Kim Jong Il would be running this newspaper’s editorial policy the next day. The Los Angeles Times’ readers deserve better than that.”
It may be that the inmates have taken over. One can only guess that the publisher either lacks control over its employees, or that this is a remarkable case of self-flagellation.
April 3, 2007