Tough Times

Los Angeles

I used to count the once-great Los Angeles Times among the many reasons I like this town. It's sad to return here today to see the paper embroiled in yet-another controversy and continuing its long journalistic and business decline.

This time, CEO and Publisher Ross Levinsohn is a defendant in two sexual-harassment lawsuits and seems to have otherwise littered his path with numerous claims of abusive behavior. It's being reported here that he's lost the newsroom, with more than 180 staffers signing a letter calling for his ouster. This led in part to Levinsohn taking a leave of absence late yesterday. And all this occurred on the day that Times' reporters and editors voted to unionize.

Levinsohn took the job only five months ago, joining the Times from Yahoo and Fox Interactive - not exactly pillars of journalistic excellence, by the way.

I fell in love with the old LA Times many years ago chiefly because of its Pulitzer Prize-winning, Washington DC Bureau Chief, the late Jack Nelson. As a kid, I remember watching Nelson on Washington Week in Review and studying his important work covering Watergate as well as the civil rights movement.

I used to buy one-or-two day-old copies of the Times at Harvard Square's Out of Town news agents back then. At that time, I also devoured David Halberstam's epic history of the Times and four other media outlets, The Powers That Be (1979).

Print journalism - and I mean truly excellent print journalism expressed on paper and online - will play an essential, pivotal role in the historic events to unfold this year in the United States. Memo to the LA Times: Get your act together. We need you to be sharp, purposeful and solidly in the fight. We need you to speak truth to power. We need you once again to compete toe-to-toe with the reporting of the New York Times, McClatchy, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the top wire services. If nothing else, do so in Jack Nelson's memory.
  Image courtesy of the LA Times