By T.J. Simers
Here I’ve been writing about missing box scores and a poor sports presentation only to read the LA Times internally is apparently in self-destruct mode.
Paul Feldman, an assistant foreign editor for the Times the past 20 years and packing Pulitzer Prize credentials, wrote a scathing letter to Editor Kevin Merida questioning the leadership of the company, which has been circulating through the Times’ newsroom.
Feldman has been with the Times for 40 years, and says the company’s business plan, “charging subscribers $1 for six months or seemingly doing everything within its power to ignore or hasten the death of its main revenue source, the print newspaper, is not a winning strategy.
“Given the track record, even in a period of fiscal uncertainty or worse, I’m really unsure why we should believe that the current business leadership of our company has the ability, knowledge or insight to ever make things better.”
He gets tougher as he proceeds, and keep in mind as former Times’ blogger Steve Dilbeck learned Thursday, there are no refunds to subscriptions cancelled. You have to eat the paper.
“It seems rather clear that the top editors of this enterprise have very little idea, or, frankly NO clue, how we actually function,” writes Feldman.
That’s what is being said in the sports department as well, writers openly questioning the veracity and ability of sports editor Iliana Romero. If the intent of the Times is to drive sports reader to the newspaper’s web site why hasn’t the Times done anything to upgrade the web site?
Feldman’s criticism in questioning the Times’ leadership comes from someone with a lifetime of experience, who pinpoints weaknesses in upper management.
“Speaking as one of four remaining foreign/national editors, I can report that Kevin (Merida) has met with us once, yes, just once, since he took his job here three years ago and the managing editor he hired has met with us zero times.”
The lack of accountability has become a way of life at the Times. The No. 2 guy in sports works from his home in Portland, and many of the writers in sports say they have never heard him speak. He appears on Zoom calls but does not speak. He’s offered no direction to date, his best quality the fact he was a friend previously of the sports editor.
“Another thing we don’t talk much about here,” continues Feldman in his letter, “Because management’s goal is to whack jobs and the union’s focus is to save them, is the quality and focus of our product and the management decisions that have wreaked havoc on our once revered brand.
“What kind of serious national news operation has no congressional correspondent as the debt limit crisis careened about? And what kind of serious news operation did not assign a reporter to cover the Jan. 6 insurrection until hours after the Capitol was invaded and did no staff follow-ups in subsequent days?
“Want irony? Our DC photographer, who was actually in the Capitol building at the time and helped provide coverage, apparently received a layoff notice last week.”
The Times laid off 74 copy editors recently, doing so to sidestep Union rules that would have orchestrated the layoffs based on seniority rather eliminating one overall work title. Layoffs based on seniority would have meant laying off sports culture critic Tyler R. Tynes and Angels’ reporter Sarah Valenzuela.
I withhold comment.
Feldman urges editor Merida to show some fight and “develop a cadence” with Times’ owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, “who somehow escapes scrutiny in this mess.
“We may not be able to accomplish our journalistic mission without adequate funding or revenues. But if we don’t come up with a coherent plan, we are imperiling the hundreds of millions of dollars the doctor initially invested in the Times.”
Ouch. That’s one way to get a billionaire’s attention.
“If our mission is simply to find ways to get clicks rather than adequately cover the important news of our times, what does it really matter if we succeed or fail?”
He then blisters the 24 executives who are on the Times’ mast head signifying their lofty status at the newspaper, suggesting they might be pallbearers at the Times’ funeral.
“There would be no coffin,” Feldman writes. “But simply a cremation. After all, what burns more quickly and efficiently than newsprint?”
I emailed Feldman early today to see if he still has a job. Waiting on response.