From: OShea, James
Sent: Friday, March 23, 2007 5:32 PM
Subject: What's really important
To the Staff:
Sometimes it is hard to remember what we are really about when controversy swirls around the newsroom. Then, news breaks such as the Associated Press naming Bill Plaschke the nation's best sports columnist in large newspapers, reminding us of what is truly important -- quality journalism for our readers. Bill's honor and many other awards announced in recent weeks remind me of what an excellent newspaper this staff puts out every day, from Baghdad to Los Angeles, from Washington to Sacramento. You all should be so proud of yourselves and your paper. We can't get distracted by noise from those on the sidelines.
Since the start of the year, we've won so many awards that I really can't list them all. Consider this: The Times Sports department won the Triple Crown for placing among the Top 10 newspapers in the nation for best Sunday, daily and special sports sections. Ken Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling not only won the George Polk Award for the Altered Oceans series, they, along with Rick Loomis, also won numerous other awards, including National Journalism awards sponsored by Scripps Howard and the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism. Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber and Alan Zarembo are Investigative Reporting finalists in the Scripps Howard national competition for their work on organ transplants. Charles and Tracy are finalists for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, too. Steve Lopez is a finalist for the prestigous Batten Medal awarded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. We placed first or second in eight catagories [sic] of the AP News Executives Council awards and in seven catagories [sic] in that organization's photo and graphics competition. David Zucchino is a finalist for the Ernie Pyle Award. Judy Pasternak won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice for her "Blighted Homeland" series. The Photo staff won so many awards in the Picture of the Year International Competition that it would be impractical to list them all. The same is true for the Best of Phorojournalism awards from the National Press Photographers Association. In all, the photo staff had 10 winners. In the Society for News Design competitiion [sic], the Times placed first in total awards with 107, edging out the New York Times. The LA Times total is the highest in the history of the awards. And it's only March.
I also want to correct some misinformation being published on blogs by Andres Martinez. I don't want to engage in mud-slinging with Andres. He is a good journalist and I feel bad for him, worse today, in fact, than yesterday. But I'm also not going to sit here like some silent lamb while he distorts my record and attacks this newspaper and my newsroom.
I am not in charge of the editorial board of this newspaper. The editor of the editorial page reports directly and independently to Publisher David Hiller. That is as it should be. I strongly believe in the principle that separate editors should be in charge of news and opinion. To suggest that I told David Hiller I didn't want the editorial board reporting to me on a "whim" is untrue. He is referring to part of a longer conversation with Nikki Finke, and to take my remarks out of context is unprofessional and sloppy. Moreover, no one in this newsroom is on a campaign to "storm the editorial page and bring it back into lockstep with the newsroom." It is true that we have journalists in the newsroom who don't agree with Andres' views on the ethical problems that led to his resignation. I count myself among them. But these are legitimate, genuine differences of opinion held by people with a passion for the news and this newspaper. To suggest otherwise is pitiful. He also attacked Sue Horton and Julie Marquis for having the audacity to alert the editorial pages to the important work of the staff in case it might make a good editorial. Sue and Julie did nothing wrong.
Lastly, Andres suggests I came to Los Angeles as some sort of agent of Tribune Company to quell an "uprising by the imperial subjects." To refer to the journalists at this newspaper in such a manner is an insult to hard-working people who happen to disagree with Andres. I came here because it was an honor to be selected to lead a great newspaper with an excellent staff in one of the most interesting cities in the world. I will stand on my record and credentials as a newsman and journalist. The suggestion that I make decisions simply to curry favor with the staff is also simply untrue. We face hard times. If I have to make decisions that are unpopular with the staff but in the best long-term interest of this newspaper, I will not hesitate to make them. That is what leadership is about. I've said that openly from the day that I walked into this newsroom.
I believe in full disclosure.