Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

March 22, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

GRAZERGATE....Ready for another scandal? This one is local to Los Angeles and it goes something like this:

Andres Martinez is editor of the LA Times opinion pages. He is dating a woman named Kelly Mullens, who works for a Hollywood PR firm called 42West. One of the partners at 42West is Allan Mayer, who represents (among others) producer Brian Grazer. This Sunday, Grazer is guest editing Current, the LAT's weekend opinion section.

The scandal, such as it is, revolves around the possibility that Grazer was chosen because Martinez's girlfriend recommended him. Both of them say in no uncertain terms that this isn't true. Here's Martinez:

The apparent conflict in this instance arises from the fact that I called up Allan Mayer early this year to ask if he'd ask Steven Spielberg if he'd be interested in being our first guest editor. Mayer is a well-known former journalist and public relations guru who is Kelly's boss. Months earlier, Allan had come into the paper for lunch with a number of editors (at a time when I had no contact with Kelly) to talk journalism and some of the preemptive crisis management he'd done on Munich for Spielberg.

Long story short, Spielberg said he was intrigued, but couldn't do it then. Allan then suggested Brian Grazer, and I quickly decided this was an inspired choice. I told Nick Goldberg, Current's editor, and Michael Newman, my deputy, that Allan had suggested Grazer, and we all read up on him and met him, and were excited about his involvement.

I gotta be honest: even in the worst case -- namely that Mullens suggested one of her firm's clients to Martinez and he followed up on it -- this seems remarkably....piddling. People know people. Ideas come from all over the place. Friends recommend things.

But hey. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is an ethical blunder of Biblical proportions and I'm somehow not seeing it. I'm sure that the massive no-stones-unturned internal investigation recommended by former LAT city editor Bill Boyarsky will eventually set things straight. But I will say this: today's decision to cancel the guest-edited section is the worst possible response the Times could have chosen. (Martinez resigned immediately after he was told.) After all, the only way for their readership to decide if the choice of Grazer was (a) inspired or (b) corrupt is to read the result. If it looks like he used the section to pimp a bunch of 42West clients, then we can all conclude that Martinez abused his position. If it doesn't, then we can all scratch our heads about why Times management (and the newsroom, apparently) went into full-bore panic mode over this.

But unless we get to see it, there's no way to know. Regardless of what else they do, in the interests of transparency they should publish the section intact and let us see what Glazer ended up doing with it.

POSTSCRIPT: On a funnier note, do you know what Allan Mayer's PR specialty is? Back when he worked for Sitrick and Co., it was crisis management and celebrity damage control. Here's Variety:

Mayer, one of the few publicists with a journalism background (he ran Buzz magazine for several years), preaches the preemptive approach.

Handling clients like Halle Berry when she was implicated in a hit-and-run and Paula Poundstone when she was accused of child endangerment, his mantra has been: "If you don't tell your story, someone else is going to tell it for you, and you probably won't like the way it comes out."

That's especially true when a celeb is being pushed into the news by a scandal. "We live in a news culture in which the operative assumption has to be that a story is going to get out," he says."

"The idea that there are secrets involving public figures is an obsolete one."

Sounds like the LA Times could use his help right about now.

Kevin Drum 4:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Anyone in here? Didn't think so. I'll just roll on through...

Posted by: tumbleweed on March 22, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, is this really a story? Who the hell cares? This is LA narcissism.

Posted by: sal on March 22, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Sal: If this were a New York story would you suddenly care? The LA Times is one of the Big Three of American newspaper journalism, and a scandal there (or even a "scandal") seems like it ought to be of interest.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on March 22, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Not to be a dick, but I'm not sure I give a crap about this.

Are you absolutely sure that nobody, anywhere in the world is dying because of George W Bush and his bankrupt ideology?

Is this really the most important thing going on right now?

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on March 22, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

..then we can all scratch our heads about why Times management (and the newsroom, apparently) went into full-bore panic mode over this.

Not to mention a certain blog...Kev, did someone from the LA Times point a gun at Inkblot's head and threatened to shoot unless you wrote about this?

Posted by: grape_crush on March 22, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Jeesh Kevin get your facts straight.
With all the discussions about this in the blogosphere they have already definitively concluded that:

1)It was inquiries from the Office of the Vice President that put into motion the appointment of Grazer as guest editor.

2) Martinez's girlfriend neither "selected" nor "recommended" Grazer for the opinion section boondoggle.

Posted by: zAmboni on March 22, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

This doesn't amount to a popcorn fart, as they say out here in flyover country. Let's discuss something more substantive.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on March 22, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

No more GATES. Except Bob. Thank you.

Posted by: Grace on March 22, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, Jonah's Boss at the LA Times has already resigned.

So it had a happy ending after all.

Posted by: jerry on March 22, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Enough with 'gate'. Really. STOP!

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 22, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

I take it the LA Times had some space it couldn't sell to advertizers and lacked a real story. It had to invent a "scandal" to fill space. I would have asked for pictures of kittens, but I am not the LA Times editor.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 22, 2007 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the real issue that the LA Times continues to downgrade their hard news (and opinion) in favor of flashy fluff like having Grazer and others like him edit the Op/Ed section? The management imposed by the Tribune Company in Chicago is trying to wipe out any substance.

Posted by: martha on March 22, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I would enter into a pact to refuse to comment on any post that uses -gate anywhere in the title or the body, unless we are talking about freakin' Watergate.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 22, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I would enter into a pact to refuse to comment on any post that uses -gate anywhere in the title or the body, unless we are talking about freakin' Watergate.
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State

Word.

Posted by: MsNThrope on March 22, 2007 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

People are seriously upset about how someone got a guest shot editing the weekend opinion page? Really? Can't we at least worry about something as substantive as who's on who's blogroll? Come on.

Posted by: biggerbox on March 22, 2007 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

I get the LA Times, and if it's one of the Big 3, as Kevin asserts, it's no wonder American journalism keeps us all so ill-informed.

Maybe McClatchy ought to go nationwide, like a USA Today, but for people who want news.

Posted by: dj moonbat on March 22, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

This does shed light on why Ann Althouse is always guest editing for Glenn Reynolds.

Posted by: jerry on March 22, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

McClatchy? News? You mean like this article from last week:

Living room's newest accessory: a stripper pole

newsobserver.com/371/story/551871.html

Posted by: andy on March 22, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

So... He met his girlfriend when finding a guest editor?

This is news?

One guy?

What?

Posted by: Crissa on March 22, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) >"I would enter into a pact to refuse to comment on any post that uses -gate anywhere in the title or the body, unless we are talking about freakin' Watergate."

I`m in.

I am really, really tired of this all junior high school all the time culture

"The internet can be as informative as the library of Alexandria or as crass as a bathroom wall." - GSD-firedoglake.com

Posted by: daCascadian on March 22, 2007 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Is this really the most important thing going on right now?

What, compared to those eight attorneys? Nah.

Apparently the most important thing in Congress right now is trying to create a fake state out of the District of Columbia to give the Democrats a few more seats. Not going over well, though.

Posted by: miranda on March 22, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Kevin, you haven't posted anything about Purgegate since early this morning. I guess the faux crisis really HAS blown over, hasn't it?

What lies about the administration are the liberals going to manufcture next?

Posted by: Al on March 22, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK
Apparently the most important thing in Congress right now is trying to create a fake state out of the District of Columbia to give the Democrats a few more seats.

Er, no. Look, aside from whether it was the most important thing or not, the bill would create 1 additional seat for the DC, and one which would be apportioned as usual, and in the interim before the next census go to Utah. It would almost certainly produce no change in the partisan balance of the house (+1 D, +1 R in the short term). Which is, after all, why Republicans were cosponsoring it: its not against their partisan interests.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Wait!? Martinez resigned?? Martinez IS GONE?!? Holy crap! That's the biggest news about the state of MSM in America this month!!

Maybe LAT will stop being lapdogs. Maybe they will find their cojones. Maybe they will return to a seat of influence and ability and pull their sisters collective heads out of their asses. Maybe they can start by canning Max Boot. Maybe I might even get my subscription back. Maybe.

Posted by: SoCalAnon on March 22, 2007 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

The basic story about the Los Angeles Times is the one that will never be mentioned in the LAT. The LAT has traditionally been a pretty decent serious newspaper, not as good as the NYT, but comparable to the Washington Post and better than just about every other local newspaper in the country for thumbsucking analyses of the "Whither Turkmenistan?" ilk. I like it because I like dull, serious-minded newspapers.

The LAT's problem is that the mass immigration that the LAT has heartily supported over the decade is driving the English-speaking middle class out of the Southland, so its circulation is dropping like a rock. For a long time that didn't matter, because the LAT had a monopoly on local classified advertising, so if you wanted to buy or sell a car, you needed the newspaper. But that's all going to the Internet.

Statistically, the newcomers to LA who are replacing the old American-born middle class don't much want to read about Turkmenistan or the social security trust fund. They want to read about the stars of Sabado Gigante, in Spanish, and, to be honest, they don't really much want to read at all when they could watch TV.

Pretty soon, they'll be able to change the name of the newspaper to the "Hollywood Hills and Beachfront Times" because all that will be left of its subscribers will be a thin streak of the upper middle class and upper class in the poshest zip codes.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on March 22, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

That wouldn't be a scandal even here in Hooterville.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on March 22, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

yawwwwwnnn...

Posted by: jman_nyc on March 22, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's because there's a lesbian couple involved. Unlike the entertainment industry, say, "out" lesbian couples are very rare in the mainstrea media.

Posted by: captcrisis on March 22, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

"If you don't tell your story, someone else is going to tell it for you, and you probably won't like the way it comes out."

"Sounds like the LA Times could use his help right about now"

Hell, John Kerry could have used this advice back in '04.

Posted by: C.L. on March 22, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

For some of us east of the Sierras this is not a burning issue like, say, what's going on with the Dodgers?

Posted by: stonevendor on March 22, 2007 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

If you want to cover some real CA news, you should be blogging about how the Salukis were robbed out in San Jose just now.

Posted by: Disputo on March 22, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the real issue that the LA Times continues to downgrade their hard news (and opinion) in favor of flashy fluff like having Grazer and others like him edit the Op/Ed section? The management imposed by the Tribune Company in Chicago is trying to wipe out any substance.

We flyoverlanders are holding your print journalism hostage until you stop programming crap on TV.

Posted by: Disputo on March 22, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: I agree it seems like an overreaction, and I wonder if it's payback from the news-side for Martinez not objecting strongly enough to Baquet and Johnson's dismissals/resignations. Not that I think it's unwarranted hostility, but I think Bill Boyarsky is being hyperbolic when he calls this the worst thing since the Staples Center fiasco.

To the yawners: we regularly have to put up with thumb-sucking stories about the weather in New York, so as Cheney would say, go fark yourselves.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on March 22, 2007 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they can start by canning Max Boot.

Boot is booted.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on March 22, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, the news room at the Cocamunga Clarian is in an uproar ever since Minsy, the editor's Cock-a-poo, chewed through his leash and took off down Main Street. Inside sources say that....


Puhlease!

Posted by: Keith G on March 22, 2007 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

"The LAT's problem is that the mass immigration that the LAT has heartily supported over the decade is driving the English-speaking middle class out of the Southland"

Shocking as it might be to encounter Hispanics in a town named Los Angeles, of all places, there is no actual evidence that Hispanics are conducting a program of ethnic clensing. Instead, they seem to be going about their lives in much the same way as everyone else.


Posted by: rea on March 22, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, please stop giving posts about L.A. titles like "Senior Citizen Bukkake" -- you're confusing Keith G.

Posted by: Uli Kunkel on March 22, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

No, I still wouldn't care. NYT would be NY narcissism. There would have to be a much clearer, or direct, connection an evidence of an actual problem. This just seems like playing six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
If LAT is going to have guest editors (and don't know why they do, but whatever), I don't see anything suspicious about their choices, unless they show a consistent pattern towards one side/issue/etc.

Posted by: sal on March 23, 2007 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

Who really cares anymore. As a reader of the Times for over 40 yrs, I don't even look at the
Current/Opinion section. It reflects the mismanagement and poor choices that the Times have been making. We could use some real journalism but we ain't getting it.

Posted by: fillphil on March 23, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Boring... from top to bottom of the thread

Posted by: tommyg on March 23, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Boyarsky seems to think it was corruption before any investigation, so why go to him?

Posted by: Kija on March 23, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK
…I gotta be honest: even in the worst case … this seems remarkably....piddling. …
Ok, I gotta disagree completely. This is not piddling and the worst case seems to be the operative one according to Tim Rutten's column

To summarize: Martinez resigned in pique after The Times publisher, David D. Hiller, told him he couldn't go forward with a Current section that was being guest-edited by Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. Hiller intervened when it was learned that Martinez has been dating a Hollywood publicist whose firm represents the producer. In fact, the agency obtained Grazer's business after Martinez's girlfriend's boss facilitated the arrangement between the producer and The Times….

The idea of guest editors is silly and never should have gone past the idea stage. Brian Grazer is as entitled to his opinion as anyone, but entitled to edit the Sunday current section? Why? I would even prefer to see that task given to Kevin Drum who at least pays attention to the current political scene whereas Mr. Grazer can be only an interested amateur at best.
At the very least, readers deserve to be exposed to knowledgeable editors and positions expressed by knowledgeable writers. If Mr Grazer has something to say, say it in the letters to the editor section with the rest of us.

(I was one who wrote to and complained about this to the Times.)

I see the always reprehensible racist Mr. Sailer is blaming brown people. What a surprise.

Posted by: Mike on March 24, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't this imply that there might be a bigger problem with media ethics? This entire "scandal" arose because there were very distant but documented links between Martinez and Graser. Would the scandal had broken if the links were closer but undocumented?

It seems that the LAT is more interested in the appearance of propriety than actual propriety.

Posted by: MnZ on March 25, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"The LA Times is one of the Big Three of American newspaper journalism"

The LA Times is one of the Big Three only in the sense that the Houston Chronicle must be #4-- that a paper is automatically lifted to that level by virtue of being dominant in a large city (or in the WaPo's case, the capitol).

Try to think of important stories broken by the LA Times in the last, oh, 25 years. It's the NYT, the WaPo and the WSJ, and then a BIG gulf between them and whatever's next-- and frankly it's more likely the Philadelphia Inquirer or something that comes next. As a Chicagoan, I think the irony about all the Chi-Trib hating is that the Tribune has a lot of the same problems of self-importance and tedium borne of responsibility that the LA Times has (the Sun-Times is by far the better paper here, sadly all the white collar folks are brainwashed from birth to believe it's a rag)-- yet whenever I go to LA, I realize that the LAT is like the Tribune minus all the interesting parts.

Posted by: Mike G on March 25, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly