Departing editor O’Shea’s platitudes don’t withstand scrutiny

Who needs day-time soap operas when you have journalism in California to follow.

Between Crazy Wendy and tribulations at the Times, there is plenty of entertainment in the Sunshine State.

This week’s big news is the “force out” of LAT executive editor Jim O’Shea.

O’Shea reportedly told Tribune Co. employees,

One thing I want put on the record, though, is that I disagree completely with the way that this company allocates resources to its newsrooms, not just here but at Tribune newspapers all around the country. That system is at the core of my disagreements with David. I think the current system relies too heavily on voodoo economics and not enough on the creativity and resourcefulness of journalists….


I mean, what the hell does that mean?

Look up “voodoo economics.” Does that really describe the supposed strangling of the Times through staff reductions?

And if you believe journalists are creative and resourceful, don’t you trust that if cuts are made, they will figure out a way to make it work?

I’m not passing judgment on anything related to Mr. O’Shea’s situation, just saying — WTF does he mean? His statement on its face is utter non-sense.

I don’t think these quotes should be skimmed over or passed on without a little examination. They resonate with a nice journalistic militarism, but they sound more like self-justifying rhetoric than anything helpful.

UPDATE: Howard Weaver addresses O’Shea’s one-percent solution. My additional comment would be: It seems like O’Shea forgot he was running a local newspaper.

UPDATE II:  What he said — Jack Lail.  Newsrooms today need leadership. Jim O’Shea didn’t provide it.

13 thoughts on “Departing editor O’Shea’s platitudes don’t withstand scrutiny

  1. Funny post, Howard. I have no idea what the hell he means either. It sounds like he is saying it is voodoo economics to fire journalists when you are trying to cut costs at newspapers. Maybe he means journalists can cut costs themselves if asked to come up with solutions. Newspapers always cut journalists to save money. Is there any other way?

    Why not create more innovative ways to get revenue? Like some of the things you discuss here could spur revenue opps for newspapers. right?

  2. There’s a great web team in place at the LAT. You could argue — give them a chance.

    But that doesn’t seem to be what O’Shea is saying.

    I’m just not sure even he knows what he wants.

  3. what? That’s all he said…or is it taken out of context? And when you say his platitudes and his quotes, you have more than one, Howard?

    and that “reportedly said”…are we supposed to wonder at the use of a weasel word?

  4. so there is. I’ve got to get over this hasty jump to conclusions, and now i’ve got to read the whole thing. Abject apologies, Howard

  5. Links: That’s how the web works and why bloggers use them, so you can check things out for yourself. No apologies at all. Nothing to apologize for. Go read it yourself. Make up your own mind.

    Links, what bloggers do and MSM rarely do. Advantage bloggers.

    Or are you just a troll?

  6. – all due respect to wikipedia but the phrase “voodoo economics” has been around a lot longer than Ronald Reagan. Any theory that is not based on solid empirical research or immutable rules of logic may be described as “voodoo”.

    IMHO O’Shea’s use of the phrase is entirely reasonable.

  7. Good for O’Shea. The guy is standing up for what he believes in — quality journalism in the face of difficult times. He seems to remember that while it’s a business, the first part of the word is NEWSpaper. Not many of us would have the guts to risk getting fired over something like that.

    And for what it’s worth, he did point to the increase in page views online. Guess he’s not necessarily a “journosaur” who doesn’t consider the web important.

  8. I have to agree with Howard, totally. This editor followed a string of other editors who were let go when they wouldn’t allow lay-offs. What did he expect was going to happen? Did he seriously think the lay-offs were finished? If so, he’s a pretty terrible journalist to lack that kind of foresight and skepticism.

    This editor seems to have ignored the reality, which is layoffs will continue unless they come up with some way to drive revenue. And simply hiring more journalists, or sending them to the Olympics, does nothing for revenue.

    He’s playing to an old journalism myth that we pretends we can just stick our head in the sand and the storm will pass.

  9. Howard,
    I am not exactly sure you read the entirety of his remarks. He is simply saying you cannot cut your way to greatness. I would hope that in a day when individual reporters are being are being asked to layer on video, audio, blogging and local TV news appearances — in addition to fundamental reporting and writing — that this would be obvious to most people. Guess I was wrong.

  10. A, he was asked to cut $50,000. That isn’t even one FTE at the LAT.

    B, by his statements, it’s clear his priorities are misplaced. Rather than talk about the need to beef up local coverage, or do more online, he wanted money to cover the friggin’ Olympics and send more reporters on already overcrowded campaign buses.

  11. A) No, he was asked to cut $4 million on top of $10 million a year ago.

    You’re quoting the $50,000 figure from this guy:

    B) Perhaps you missed the part in his remarks where he cited 187 million page views on LA, coverage of the S.D. wildfires, improvements to the fashion section, travel section and calendar weekend section and the fact the Times was one of four papers to gain in circulation last year.

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