By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)
As the rest of the press (mainstream and alternative) was publishing endorsements and election coverage for Tuesday’s referendum on Bush and Iraq, Mike Lacey, editor in chief of the Village Voice/New Times papers, was down in Los Angeles at the LA Weekly stoking yet another of his signature bloodbaths (see my previous blog below).
Lacey killed the Weekly’s influential and widely read political endorsements, making this election the first time in memory that the Weekly did not run endorsements. He oversaw the firing of News Editor Alan Mittelstaedt and the hiring of Jill Stewart, described by Kevin Roderick in LA Observed as a “Lacey favorite columnist at the old New Times Los Angeles.” Lacey also oversaw the sacking of Harold Meyerson, the highly respected veteran political columnist who was regarded as a Lacey target because he was liberal and activist. (Lacey wouldn’t renew his contract.) And, when Meyerson complained in an email to the staff about a front page story in the current edition in the New Times template, Mike savaged him publicly with a classic New Times rant and rave.
Michael Sigman, former president and publisher of the LA Weekly, made the appropriate comment to LA Observed: “I worked with hundreds of smart writers and editors during nearly 20 years at LA Weekly. Harold Meyerson is one of maybe two or three whom I would describe as a genius. His loss is unfortunate for the paper, and more unfortunate still for LA.”
Sigman was being diplomatic. In my five decades or so in journalism, I do not know of a more vicious public attack by an editor on a staffer. Moreoever, this was not just an attack on Meyerson as a columnist and major Weekly presence for years but it was an attack on the paper, on principled journalism, on the Weekly constituency, and on Los Angeles by the editor of a predatory chain headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Here is the lineup that shows the Voice/New Times priorities in the runup to the election:
+Meyerson’s farewell column.
+Meyerson’s email to the LA Weekly staff in which he said, among other things, that “Anyone who spends a nano-second looking at the paper understands that New Times template is already in place, and I know from countless conversations that editorial staffers live in fear of geting the ax if they deviate from it. That’s sad for the city, sad for the paper, and sad for those of you who work there and are in no financial position to leave (a position I understand very well).”
+Lacey’s “Hey Hack” response.
+And my previous blog on Voice/New Times policy of not allowing their papers to endorse–and my critical question arising therefrom: Does Dan Savage or Mike Lacey have the real balls? My vote is for Savage. He got endorsements in every one of his pre-election sex columns run by New Times papers. A bravura performance on pre-election deadline. And Lacey of course was being Lacey. And, thanks to Lacey and his regime, the LA Weekly of Jay Levin, Ron Curran, Harold Meyerson, Mike Sigman, and scores of fine journalists and staffers on a special journalistic mission is gone. Alas. Alas.
Our Town, Our Paper
L.A. and the Weekly, in hindsight and foresight
By HAROLD MEYERSON