Arts Los Angeles Times Media

Life Imitates Art at the LA Times – UPDATED


“How come there’s cuts in the newsroom
when the company’s still profitable,” says an unhappy editor when a new round of staff buyouts are announced.

No, this quote didn’t come from someone
on the LA Times editorial staff (pointing out that the LA Times has a very healthy 20 percent profit margin) after the news broke yesterday about the firing of Jim O’Shea for refusing to again slash the Times editorial staff. It was said by a fictional Metro editor working for the (fictionalized version) of the Baltimore Sun on last night’s episode of the brilliant HBO series The Wire.

In the scene in question, the Sun’s editor-in-chief has to make drastic cuts in the newsroom as demanded by management in Chicago, namely the Tribune company.

As with last year’s season of The Wire
which illuminated problems in public education (including the grindingly counterproductive teach-to-the-test downside of No Child Left Behind) with more precision and intelligence than any news or magazine story—this season’s focus on the news media is already stunningly insightful….and depressingly accurate.

The only character missing was Sam Zell.


AN IRONIC SIDE NOTE: As most hard core fans of the series know, The Wire’s creator David Simon worked for the Baltimore Sun until 1995, when he took a buyout during one of that paper’s cost cutting frenzies. According to Simon, his bete noir in the Sun’s cost-cutting battles was the paper’s then editor-in-chief John Carroll who, a decade later, became the first of three editors-in-chief at the LA Times to take a figurative bullet for his opposition to demanded newsroom cuts. (Next would come Dean Baquet and now Jim O’Shea.) UPDATE: Carroll, who led the Times to five Pulitzers, is quoted in today’s Editor and Publisher.

The real John Carroll during the first round of the ongoing cost cut battles that have now cost three top editors their jobs.
The fictional but remarkably Carrollesque-looking editor explaining the “need” for draconian cost cuts at the fictional paper on The Wire.

UPDATE: Again LA Observed is the place to go to monitor
unfolding gossip and news about the latest LA Times plot twists. This morning, among other pieces of news, he quotes USC Annenberg professor Marty Kaplin:

“Haven’t I seen that movie before?” Kaplan said. “It certainly makes the replacement want ad very peculiar. ‘Wanted: Great journalist with superb firing skills.’ “


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