Literature & Justice Los Angeles Times Writers and Writing

Why Does the LA Times Hate Books?


Saturday night, one of California’s best known small literary presses, Red Hen Press,
had it’s annual Christmas party at the home of editor/poet Kate Gale and publisher Mark Cull (who also happen to be married to each other, which is handy).

It is a party that I always try to attend. For one thing, it features a lively array of literary types who, even after several glasses of Cabernet, are still able to gossip in nicely-formed sentences. Even the poets. (Okay, especially the poets.)

Plus Kate’s lasagna is terrific and Mark’s chili can be counted on to be spicy enough to be sinus clearing.


(Those forming nice sentences—with or without the Cab—included poet Eloise Klein Healy, queen of LA book PR and poet, Kim Dower (Kim from LA), novelist/memoirist, Aimee Liu, poet and Y.A. author, Ron Koertge, composer Morten Lauridsen and more.)

This year, a discernible current of unhappy bewilderment shot through many of the night’s more upbeat conversations whenever someone brought up the topic of the LA Times and, well, books. You see on Friday, we had all learned via Kevin Roderick at LA Observed that the Times had cut its already slashed and burned Book Review section staff exactly in half.


Last week there were four people working at LA Times Books. Today there are two. Editor David Ulin, and Deputy editor Nick Owchar. But Orli Low and Susan Salter Reynolds are gone.

(Okay, yes, thankfully, there is also Carolyn Kellogg, who writes the excellent book blog, Jacket Copy. ) *

That assistant book editor Orli Low has been laid off is unsettling enough. (I’ve worked with Orli and, like everyone who has, I know what a good editor she is.)

But to have staff writer Susan Salter Reynolds leave as well…. it is unutterably stupid. In addition to the other reviews and articles she writes, Susan puts out the weekly Discoveries section, which means she reviews at least three books a week, often more. And not only does she churn these puppies out, she does so with grace, insight and lovely prose of her own.

(Just speaking personally,
there is no one writing for the LAT, on staff or off, whose reviews have more frequently gotten me to go out and buy the $%$@%$& book in question.)


And this is the person the LA Times editors, in their seemingly infinite unwisdom, have decided to shove out the door? How do they imagine they are going to get all those books reviewed once she’s gone?


I get it.

They aren’t.

Right. Of course not.

Nevermind that, as Ulin pointed out in Sunday’s wonderful column Connected to Writing, in which he looks at what the past decade portends for the future of reading and writing, that—surprise—the interest in literature is actually on the rise, not waning.

(According to the NEA, more than 112 million people are literary readers—that is, readers of “novels and short stories, plays, or poems”— a number that only increases when you include nonfiction, graphic novels, genre literature and e-books.)

The numbers make clear it is the delivery systems that are changing. Not the desire to immerse oneself in great stories, fiction or nonfiction—on paper or digital tablet (or read aloud on one’s iPod).

Did I mention that LA is one of the nation’s book buying-est cities? It usually comes right after New York, on the lists. (And before San Francisco, which imagines itself to be the more literary of the two cities. Dream on, SF!)

No matter. The LA Times management, awash in a dark and relentless cynicism about their customers, appears to be ever more convinced that we in LA care only about movies and TV. (While Book review is down to two people, arts and entertainment has more than 50 on the staff—and may hire still more.)

NOTE TO LA TIMES MANAGEMENT: Do you really think that doing away with half of the people on your payroll who write or edit anything pertaining to books and/or reading is the smartest cost-cutting/revenue producing strategy if you want to retain or attract more readers? Really?


1. On the subject of writers, China’s most prominent dissident, literature professor, Liu Xiaobo will go on trial on Wednesday on subversion charges for his writings critical of the Chinese government. He has been detained for a year without charge. (The London Times has the rest of the story.)

The PEN American Center has a one-click email you can send to ask for Liu’s release.

2. As you likely know the Senate has nailed down its 60 votes. Heaven only knows what was handed over for payment.

3. Be sure to read the article in Sunday’s LA Times about the low bar often set teacher tenure at LAUSD, with no effort to see if the the instructor is actually proficient at teaching.

4. The LA Times has been digging into the issue of why there seemed not to be adequate air support during the first few days of the Station fire.

From the back door mutterings I’ve heard, what is reported today (Monday) is just the beginning.

(And, no, you’re not hallucinating, I did add new photos. )

(*I also fixed the line about Jacket Copy, which was clumsily worded earlier.)


  • The American public will join in a massive protest against the Chinese government by purchasing billions of dollars of products made in China. We will spend in revolt, this Christmas!!!!!!!!!!

  • I never read the LA Times so I don’t have a sense of the paper (I’m pretty much addicted to the NYTs and can’t much stand my local papers anymore – in fact I’m looking forward to a Northern California edition of the Times they’re planning with Cal journalism school, so I guess I’m part of the newspapers’ problems) – but one of the things that kept me reading the SF Chronicle as long as I did was that they used to have a pretty good books section.

    A good book review is a thing unto itself. I rarely read contemporary fiction but I often enjoy the reviews of books I know I’ll never pick up and a good non-fiction review serves two functions for me – helps spot books I want to read or encapsulates useful or interesting notes from books I’m not likely to dig into deeper.

    I don’t want to rag on “arts” – although I could live without a dance critic – but that arts and entertainment ratio to book reviewers is remarkable for a paper with the alleged ambitions and audience of the LA Times. The truth is that I’m perfectly happy with capsule reviews of films that signal whether or not I’m likely to want to see the thing. Beyond that there are maybe 3 films a year for which I really care about extensively – and if I do it will likely be in the New Yorker. Same with music – spending nearly 1/10th the time it takes to experience the thing itself is too long for most reviews. Book reviews are different, and my guess is that the readers take them more seriously.

    For me – who spends more time reading crap on the internet than pages between covers, am totally disconnected from the realm of current “literary fiction” – I don’t even want to fake those conversations at parties – and often reads the first 40 pages of a book and then skims and “drops in” for the rest, i.e. kind of a serious writer’s nightmare – the book review section is absolutely central and the section I look forward to more consistently than any other. Writing is one of the hardest endeavors I know. “Attention must be paid” even by fickle, unreliable readers such as myself.

  • Also – reading that LAUSD article in the LA Times was unnerving. This is not “normal.” My kid was a middle school English teacher in SF – he struggled to get a full position and in the process was vetted quite rigorously by the principal and other teachers. Measuring up was a big deal.

    When I read stories like this I am consistently reminded of that bizarre image posted here of the LA school district headquarters. It epitomized the concept of bureaucracy, bloat and disconnect. I am one of those folks “boggled” by LA – I just don’t get it. NYC and its boroughs make more sense to me, and that’s a pretty overwhelming entity. If faced with the problem of administering a school district on that scale, the first thing I would do is simply break the sucker up into essentially autonomous local districts. It would create inequities, no doubt, but it would also give people a chance to get a grip on their schools. The situation described in that article is unbelievable – even in a relatively dysfunctional district.

    As I said, I don’t believe this level of clueless administration is even “normal” for urban districts that suck. What the hell are the responsible folks thinking ? It’s hard to imagine that the teachers’ union could benefit from such lack of oversight in the tenure process, because it basically gives a big pile of evidence to anyone who thinks simply gutting job protections for teachers is the answer to all of the problems of the schools. It’s insane. Actually, its criminal in the context of just how poor the schools are functioning and the outcomes for kids.

  • It’s easier to hand out tenure to teachers than to stand up to the teacher union, especially when those in charge are part of it and are as lazy as many of the teachers whome they’re supposed to evaluate. In liberal-land, kids really do come last. Liberal agenda comes first, but liberals do pretend to care.

  • Oh, I just read reg’s imagined preemptive strike to defend the teacher union, that actually does benefit from this lack of oversight by protecting its members, and it does not have to worry about public relations.

    – – –

    Maybe the LA Times is planning to review books like the Washington Post.
    Ana Marie Cox is SO Smart, She Doesn’t Even Have to READ Books to Review Them!

    I cannot claim to have completely read “Going Rogue” — I had to skim the last 150 pages (or more than one-third).

  • Woody -you’re such a repetitive, useless piece of shit spouting Palin-esque, Beckoid, knee-jerk liberal-bashing talking points that even your old Congressman New Gingrich has parted ways with you:

    “Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been a strident and outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s policies, is praising the president for his ‘courage’ in promoting education reform.” (from Politico)

  • While our comments crossed in the mail, reg, it shows your typical brilliance of defending positions by calling people names.

    And, what difference does it make that a conservative that you’ve always hated said something nice about something-or-other that Obama hasn’t accomplshed on education. Oh, wait, I see why you support Obama’s education reform: Obama Picks Militant Pervert Kevin Jennings for Key Education Post I don’t think Gingrich considered that.

  • Woody, if you actually looked at the review, she’s saying she didn’t have time to read the book (one day to read the book and write the review) and is basically apologizing for it, “it’s terrible, I know.” The review is stupid and pointless and either she or the WAPO screwed up. That you and your pals decide this is indicative of liberal ego or stupidity or whatever is silly.

  • Celeste, nobody reads. You know that. LA Times is a business. They’re going to give more space to stories that readers, or, really, gawkers, are interested in, such as celebrities, sports, and more celebrities. You sound like Tony Rafael when he’s trying to make a case that the Times is part of a liberal conspiracy. I had to debunk him recently on that over at his blog. Everyone has some boogieman theory with the major papers. They’re just businesses. Period. In fact, there is your conspiracy, right there. They conspire to write stories that either make the businesses that advertise in their paper look good, or to distract from the bad they’re doing. They have two pages, all the way in the back of the first section, where they spout off their political views. Most people don’t even read the editorials. You want more space dedicated to book reviews? Make it worth their while $$$.

  • # WTF Says:
    December 21st, 2009 at 5:16 am

    The American public will join in a massive protest against the Chinese government by purchasing billions of dollars of products made in China. We will spend in revolt, this Christmas!!!!!!!!!!


    Haaa haaa!!!!

    WTF, I agree with the WTF!

  • If Woody were actualy worried about folks who “bow” to foreign leaders and are in cahoots with Communists, he’d be railing against WalMart. Of course, it’s all about knee-jerk talking points and the last thing in the world people in Woodster’s world want to do is raise questions about the efficacy of “free markets.” In Woody’s world, the biggest problem with WalMart and the moguls behind it is that they have to pay some modest taxes.

  • I don’t think it’s a conspiracy. I just think they’re idiots, from a business perspective as well. They misunderstand their subscribers (or former subscribers) as is evidenced by, among other things, their shrinking bottom line.

    People who want glance-ready entertainment gossip go to TMZ, for God’s sake. Or Nicki Finke.

    WTF, that is funny.

  • “No cookie” – hey, if I want a cookie I’ll go find a Girl Scout, one of those little devils who are engaged in an annual crusade to kill me with their goddam sugar bombs.

  • Incidentally, in the spirit of the season I’m going to say something so controversial and tendentious that it might finally get me kicked out of here:

    I love the Bob Dylan Christmas album ! That’s right ! I love the damned thing.

    I saw Tom Russell over in Bezerkely last week and he’s with me on this and framed it better than anyone else I’ve heard comment on it. His take is that you imagine the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Jimmy Stewart has hit bottom, desperate in that snowstorm, and that there’s a “rummie”, as Russell put it, lying in the snow in the background who starts singing Christmas carols. That’s the Bob Dylan Christmas album in proper context. Truly a gift from the angels. The beautiful thing about it is that its weird but totally non-ironic in its presentation. Christmas songs from the heart, as they should be.

    There. I’ve said it.

  • If Walmart has to go out of the country to buy cheaper goods, then maybe our labor rates are not competitive. You can thank labor unions, minimum wage laws, and Democrats for driving out American manufacuring jobs. At least Walmart does something that our government can’t do. They charge us less and they actually pay their debts to the Chinese.

  • Agree about letting go Susan Salter Reynolds – perhaps the best writer the Times has. This decision was really made when they decided to cut out the Book Review as an independent section – it’s now harder to even find the reviews and a lot less handy than carrying around a stand-alone section.

    I’ve noticed that not only has the Entertainment section expanded but it’s more frivolous, fashion red carpet reviews, more E! than newsworthy or serious reviews. (Speaking of which, did Suzanne Muchnic get pink-slipped, too?) This dumbing-down seems to derive somehow from now being in the same group with Fox tv and KTLA “light news.” But the people who seek out that celebrity gossip and fashion stuff have lots more cutting edge sources than the L A Times, so I’m not sure they’re chasing the right audience while losing the people who still actually READ a newspaper.

    Your report about the Chinese person detained for criticizing the government (pretty routine in China, though) might not be as far from what’s happening here, as we think. On its Monday Hotsheet local political gossip blog Mayor Sam reports that another blog, Griffith Park Wayist, was threatened in writing with possible legal action by Jane Usher, Trutanich’s Chief Assistant or whatever she is, for reposting a comment made by someone on the L A Times’ own blog about Trutanich. She claims that by doing this, even though it wasn’t his comment, the blog owner can be sued for libel. That can’t be right, and if it were I’m sure the Times wouldn’t have printed it in the first place.

    Aren’t commenters also allowed to give their opinion, however unsavory? You must have some info to this effect, or you wouldn’t be allowing woody, reg, sure fire and the rest to go on as they do. This is very chilling and seems a bizarre way to behave for a city attorney who’s supposed to respect the first amendment and other freedoms, as the flip side of going after scofflaws. Especially strange since his campaign used the mayor sam blog and others to denigrate Jack Weiss mercilessly and in ways that were clearly unsubstantiated or outright false. Threatening to jail officials like Jan Perry for disagreeing with him, and numerous people over his war with AEG has been all over the news and seems to me pretty amazing, frankly, but does Usher have any legal standing in this case? Have you gotten legal opinions on this in the past?

    Her letter claims that the comment was stated as fact not couched in words that made it clearly an opinion. So when woody and reg state matters concerning each other as fact, and don’t add “that’s just my opinion” each time, is that libel? And aren’t there different rules that apply to public officials vs. private individuals? In the case Usher uses for her legal threat, the Times used Trutanich’s illness as the subject of the post, and someone made a conjecture – but that person is not his doctor or anyone in authority to know, so who cares what he said? I’d be very interested in your take on this whole matter, Celeste, since you are such a staunch First Amendment advocate and a blogger yourself.

  • Like I had mentioned before, the truth is now coming out on your beloved boy – Chief Bratton. But, the big story will not hit the newspaper until some time – its a eye opening whopper of dirt!

  • Poplock, I’ll take any Bratton “news” with a grain of salt, a ton of salt. With the rightwing hating him for his stance oin SO40 (which Beck just re-affirmed), and papers like the Weekly and blogs like Ron Kaye trying their best to tarnish his image with hit piece after hit piece, and with Trutanich’s very first effort in office being to attack LAPD to try to get him, it will depend on WHERE the “news” comes from and who besides Trutanich and Cooley, can prove anything. (He’s still hiding from the city council after they demanded he do as AEG asks and “prove it or shut up” about vague allegations that have nonetheless stirred up the Usual Suspects.

  • Serious Book Lover – for what its worth, using generic insults such as “a piece of shit”, “a moron” or “dumb as a fucking post” isn’t libelous. It’s rude and uncivil in cases where the object of such language isn’t as patently ignorant, insulting to normal intellect and insistently a trolling pest as Woody happens to be. Asserting that someone is a child molester – as Woody has accused me – is, on the other hand, libelous. It’s not important because he’s not important. But I thought that should be cleared up. I don’t know the facts of the case that you refer to, but there’s a difference between rude insults and libel/slander.

  • Classic bad decision by the Times. It’s like the owners of the papers WANT us to only care about film and television. The LA Times is going to turn into a bad joke in the news world soon.

  • I have a problem with Kate Gale’s monopoly game, especially “DUI,” in which the last letter hangs off of the board. But, liberals never were ones to stick to the rules.

    – – –

    reg, I apologized for inferring that you liked little boys and said that I wouldn’t do that any more, which I haven’t since that time. What’s interesting, though, is that you never denied it.

  • reg, just checked on the details, and it’s this: a poster who gave a male name (real or not we don’t know) on a thread announcing that Trutanuch was in an undisclosed hospital for an undisclosed illness during the Thanksgiving holiday, a deliberately mysterious attitude from his office inviting speculation, said that “heavy alcohol consumption during the holidays can do that to you.”

    This does not even state that Trutanich WAS a heavy drinker, but apparently led to speculation that he binge drinks, to people commenting on what they’ve seen, and so on, and THEN the blog owner (of Griffith Park Wayist) said that there has been speculation that this was the real cause.

    Seems a misreading of the law to claim that the blog owner was liable for libel just for reprinting the original comment – made on the L A Times blog no less, which you’d think would have lawyers who have advised the blog monitors what is and isn’t libel in the first place.

    According to Usher’s interpretation, Celeste would be liable for libel if a commenter said not only that another was a child molester when he wasn’t OR any of the other nonsense that passes for discourse here, but that “being a child molester can give you that attitude,” for example. Completely nuts if you ask me but if I were Celeste or ANYONE who has a blog in L A I’d look into this threat, made on City Attorney letterhead by one of Trutanich’s chief deputies on his behalf. (And you’re not in L A so you don’t know him or the people mentioned in my post, but fact that he AND the guy who is now his “head of ethics” David Berger, made extensive use of blogs to spread what can be called libelous with the sole intent to harm the subject, makes it more than ironic, to — I don’t know.)

  • Seems to me an occasion in which the official might “demand” the opportunity to respond and counter – and I’m sure the blogger would be more than happy for all of the attention. Beyond that, it strikes me as over-reaction that actually feeds speculation that the assertions or implications are likely true.

  • reg, I agree – apart from the legalities of the case and the flap it’s causing in the blogging world, it does seem to “feed speculation that the assertions or implication are likely true.” This was one comment out of dozens or more on one thread of a blog that maybe a handful of people read, but now it’s become much more, both in terms of the nature of the assertion and more generally, about whether if any blogger airs an opinion or just allows an opinion even circumstantially unwelcome to this city attorney, he might threaten to sue them. As he has others including city officials who are his clients. (But have since insisted on hiring outside counsel.)

    However, since I don’t care about whether or not the possible cause of his illness is true or not, to me this is a First Amendment issue concerning blogs and the freedom or limitations of making and allowing comments in general.

  • My bet is that all of this talk about suing is bluff – I don’t think a public official would have a leg to stand on in court, especially since it originated as a comment. Could a newspaper be sued for publishing a letter to the editor that claimed Obama was a Muslim or Eisenhower was a Communist (that was actually a talking point among a segment of the far right, sort of like Glenn Beck today.) I just don’t see it – and I think that blog comments would be even harder impose legal responsibility for. In Britain, of course, the guy would disappear into the Tower of London, never to be seen again. Which reminds me of a great old Peter Sellers/Terry Thomas movie I saw not long ago on TMC – Your Past Is Showing. One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen – centers on a blackmail scheme concocted to confound tough British libel laws – highly recommended.

  • Reg: Asserting that someone is a child molester – as Woody has accused me – is, on the other hand, libelous. It’s not important because he’s not important. But I thought that should be cleared up.

    No it’s not. Not even close. Would be if your entire name was known to people here like Celeste, but I’m not aware of it. Has it been posted here before, and I think actually more information is needed than just your name. I don’t even know if Rob Thomas is his true name or which Rob Thomas he might be. Absent that knowledge I can say whatever I want about him in this type of setting. Not so with Celeste, and that’s how it should be.

    Check out the following link.

  • So Sure Fire is arguing that there should be tougher reg’s for public figures than for others, but I don’t think that’s the case. Actually, I think that once someone becomes a “public figure” BY CHOICE either as an elected official or star etc., they give up certain protections. HELP unbiased legal observers AND of course, Celeste, based on whatever info she’s operating on.

  • I agree, Sure Fire. In a way, Reg reminds me of Miklo, from the movie Blood in Blood Out. Example: Miklo wasn’t born into whiteness, if anything he was born a working class-south sider. In “real life;” if he were to hit the county, he would be of use and of the politics in county. He would roll south side, not wood. why? not because he chooses to be Chicano, because he lives Chicano and lives that 3ce lifestyle, him looking white doesn’t mean he is not Chicano, if I remember his mother was Latina, correct? and unless you from a hood or at least know what the program is and are mexican and only mexican, unless you lie, all yall are going to roll paisa, and that is wack, your the infantry, first to go last to know! Miklo had it correct.

  • Hi, guys. I’ve been out all day and evening and so only nominally following this thread about the lawsuit threat.

    “Serious,” thanks for bringing this to my/all of our attention.

    I’ll go and do some initial reading and see what is what. Back shortly.

  • Okay. I just read the blog post in question, the underlying comment on the LA Times site, the post at Mayor Sam’s describing the kerfuffle, and the note (as posted on the Griffith Park Wayist site from Jane Usher.

    And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s a big deal.

    For those who haven’t gone over to see it, here’s the money ‘graph in the offending post.

    City Attorney Carmen Trutanich had uncertain vital signs while hospitalized, one-time Mayoral candidate Phil Jennerjahn reports. Trutanich is also widely rumored to drink to excess. A poster named Ronald Austin at the LA Times site snipped on December 2 that “Heavy alcoholism during the holidays can do that to you” (cause abdominal pains).

    This is an irresponsible juxtaposition of sentences.

    The poster basically says.

    1. The city attorney was hospitalized and things at times looked serious.

    2. The city attorney is widely rumored (not just rumored, “widely rumored) to drink like a fish and then some.

    3. Commenter X at the LA times [who in this instance is being used as an ersatz source] said, “Yes, drinking can cause those symptoms.” (Or words to that effect.

    Yep. That’s skating mighty close to slander. He’s not just referring to the LAT commenter, he’s using him to reinforce a point, that is icky rumor and innuendo, so unless he has facts to back it up, he should watch his butt, legally speaking. I don’t know that someone could win a defamation case. But they could sure cause a lot of trouble.

    As for Usher, she didn’t exactly threaten. She just pulled back her coat, so to speak, and showed him she was packing a weapon, and that he best be mindful of said weapon.

    It may have been a little heavy handed. But, I can understand drawing a firm boundary about that kind of unfounded (I’m assuming) personal attack that can damage Trutanich’s ability to do his job.

    Interesting mini-drama, though. Thanks again for pointing it out.

  • Surefire – you’re a fucking moron. I didn’t make the claim that I could legally sue Woody for his comments here about “reg.” I said that the nature of his claims are the stuff of libel, not merely generic insults. That is a valid distinction, as even you acknowledge. Your observation is random, beside the point and not informative in any way that wasn’t already obvious to folks with an IQ above room temperature. “reg” has not made accusations against “Woody” that could constitute libel, merely insult. “Woody” routinely has made accusations that are the stuff of libel against “reg.” Even when you call me a “snitch” it obviously is just an angry asshole spewing insult. I’m not aware that you’ve ever suggested I’m actually an informer on my friends. (It’s a but strange you make such a big deal out of that word as a cop, because I think that a lot of kids would do well to think twice about the code of not cooperating with the cops, ever. But anyone who reads your shit here knows you’re a macho blowhard who doesn’t always get reality quite right.)

    Woody’s child molester insults were persistent and, yes, if he had directed them at someone who used their real name or whose real identitiy was known they would, at the least, border on legal libel. Of course, nobody in their right mind would sue an internet troll and I’m actually glad that the standard for libel and slander is high – especially for public figures. Ironically, Woody has – since I made that (academic but accurate) distinction here – accused “the real me” personally on another blog of something in a real-life situation – the details of which happen to be none of his business – that even were it “true” in his troll’s terms is a charge that’s beneath contempt and indicative of this little monster’s willingness to engage in the most disreputable and indecent forms of argument I’ve ever seen or read in these comments. Way beyond the silly, street-thug shit that you’ve slung at “reg” or my admittedly often excessive insults. Ugly, perverse and soul-less. The reason I don’t use a real name and limit the amount of information I reveal about myself is because of trolling garbage like Woody.

    The truth is he’s the type of dirty little troll who should be banned from even extremely tolerant forums. But that’s of no concern to me at this point. Woody is officially dead to me. I’m never going to type that name again, read a comment by the little scum or acknowledge his existence.

    That is all.

  • “Trutanich is also widely rumored to drink to excess.” We can add Sure Shit to that list. Drinking rot during the holidays can do that to you (cause abdominal pains).

  • Oh, yes, my “disreputable and indecent forms of argument” that reg referenced was to point out, by a specific example, that liberals pretend to be compassionate but only if someone else is paying for it. In other words, they don’t put their own money where their mouths are.

  • Why does Reg always seems to be scoldin’ Woody. Reg does all the barkin’, but it’s poor Woody that’s always in the doghouse.

  • Celeste, thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts. Not sure I see the legal basis though, or why someone reposting a comment that is clearly just rumor would have any liability in this case, when it happens all the time on local blogs including the Mayor Sam blog his campaign used extensively to make comments specifically intended to hurt his opponent’s ability to do his job by undermining him with untrue or wildly distorted allegations. If making unfounded comments that can harm someone’s ability to do his job is grounds for claiming libel, certainly he and his “head of ethics” Berger did that plenty on blogs and elsewhere – Berger apparently tried to do something similar against Paul Krekorian in the race for council, but was put in his place – it concerns me that such a person is the head of ethics for someone who then uses a double standard regarding himself. Applying this standard would cut out a lot of comments on such blogs – arguably for the better, but ideally with self-restraint and desire for civility, not via using the law as a sledgehammer to quell the public’s right to criticize their government or officials. (As is done in China etc., as with the example you gave.)

    And if this is true, would the same apply to saying something unfounded about ANYONE that hurts his ability to do his job, like when woody and reg and Sure Fire trade barbs about their qualifications to be cops or an accountant? Of course they don’t care and wouldn’t pursue it, but could they? Does this not “count” because they’re not public figures – who Sure Fire thinks have special protections – OR isn’t the opposite true, that celebrities and public figures have certain expectations to loss of privacy by virtue of their chosen professions? It’s been my understanding that the latter is the case, at least, it’s been standard for politicians in this town to ignore a whole lot worse written about them – there are at least 4-5 I can think of who come in for a lot of much worse ridicule on a number of blogs, starting of course with the mayor and recently, Jan Perry. And of course AEG alleges unfounded defamation by Trutanich.

    Just putting these thoughts out there because the whole issue just gets murkier the more one tries to dissect it.

  • SBL: …would the same apply to saying something unfounded about ANYONE that hurts his ability to do his job, like when woody and reg and Sure Fire trade barbs about their qualifications to be cops or an accountant?

    Note that I never say anything about reg’s qualifications to do his job, because either the job couldn’t require any qualifications or reg doesn’t have a job.

  • SBL,(love the nom de blog),

    Certainly, much (possible) defamation is going on all the time, some of it on the evening news.

    Here’s a good definition for online put out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a bunch of extremely smart folks:

    These kinds of suits, frankly, are hard to win (although you can cause an independent blogger a lot of time and money with a nuisance suit). The Enquirer has proven the difficulty of winning a defamation suit over and over again. (They have a great legal formula that generally protects them, however, plus some very highly paid lawyers.)

    I don’t pretend to be a legal expert in the matter, however, because of the nature of what I write, lawyers have had to vet my stories many times over the years, so I’ve become fairly conversant with the issue, at least from an anecdotal perspective.

    Put it this way, I would not have written what he wrote. Suggesting that a public official is a drunk (even couched in “it is widely rumored” wink-wink)—unless that public official is, in fact, provably a drunk—isn’t something I’d feel legally comfortable with.

    As for the commenters, I believe the anonymity removes the threat of libel pretty much from the gate. (Meaning, if you’re commenting about someone whose identity is unknown to you, how can you cause them damage? Thus how can it be libel?)

    Anyway, that’s my best read of the moment. All interesting stuff.

  • Reg, learn to write. You make up crap after the fact constantly about what you “meant” that never appears in your posts than call other people “fucking morons” for not reading your fucking mind.

    Here’s your entire post asshole. Notice where your claim what isn’t libelous speech and than what is? Notice where you never made this point you’re now making after the fucking fact..”I said that the nature of his claims are the stuff of libel, not merely generic insults”.

    In fact the line “It’s not important because he’s not important” infers he’s not worth your time to go after legally fuck head.

    That’s what I responded to and anyone that needs as much page space to defend his idiot posts is a clown. You’re a fucking dick without an honest bone in your fucking body.

    December 21st, 2009 at 7:19 pm
    Serious Book Lover – for what its worth, using generic insults such as “a piece of shit”, “a moron” or “dumb as a fucking post” isn’t libelous. It’s rude and uncivil in cases where the object of such language isn’t as patently ignorant, insulting to normal intellect and insistently a trolling pest as Woody happens to be. Asserting that someone is a child molester – as Woody has accused me – is, on the other hand, libelous. It’s not important because he’s not important. But I thought that should be cleared up. I don’t know the facts of the case that you refer to, but there’s a difference between rude insults and libel/slander.

  • Sure Fuhrer,

    Who are you to call people out on making stuff up? You made up being a cop to give yourself an edge in an argument about gangs. It doesn’t get more full of shit than that.

  • Way to make a point in that rage filled head of yours Reg. It’s always what you “meant”, not what you said. Your own words show you to be a liar day in and day out.

    Believe what you want Robbie Boy, you sound as O.C. as Scott, so be sure to repeat your claim, again and again, and again.

    I was putting people away gangsters before you swooned over your first look at a real one chivala. You’re all bitch Robbie Boy, and I’m sure they even know that.

  • Sure Fire Says:
    December 18th, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    “Until Robbie can post some type of creds on having ever worked gangs, and I mean all gangs, than he’s just throwing out his I like gangsters their not that bad b.s.”


    Same goes for you.

  • Like I o.c. Reg can be chalked up as a common liar and all his posts should be recognized as coming from somone with no integrity.

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