Jun 30, 2010

Going rogue at the LA Times

Alex Pareene at Salon is the latest to criticize the Los Angeles Times for not labeling its "Top of the Ticket" blog, written by Andrew Malcolm and Jimmy Orr, as reliably conservative, and he ripped the paper for failing to identify Orr as a former flack for President George W. Bush. (Malcolm, as both Pareene and the Times notes, once served as First Lady Laura Bush's press secretary.)

Here's Pareene:
So. A former professional Republican flack is writing for the L.A. Times newsblog without the paper identifying him as such. Or even just saying it's a "conservative blog." ... In fact, nearly everything Malcolm and Orr write is critical of the Obama administration, disdainful of Democrats, and supportive of Republicans. ...

If the Times wants a conservative blog, they can go ahead and launch a conservative blog. The point is to actually identify it as such. Right now the Times seems to be catering their online product specifically for Drudge and the right-wing blogosphere while pretending it's still objective in the traditional old newspaper sense of the word.
I can only assume Pareene, whose story is dated June 28, searched the Times site for relevant information about Orr and came up empty. As of today, the paper does include a bio for Orr that says he was "a spokesman for President George W. Bush and directed the e-communications strategy as the White House Internet Director." The bio is dated June 22, 2010, which is six days before Pareene's story ran - although Orr has written for the blog since at least April.

Prior to Orr, TOTT contributors included Johanna Neuman and Don Frederick, neither of whom were shills for conservative talking points.

A few weeks ago, Eric Boehlert at Media Matters took a stab or two at the blog and Malcolm's "sneering" political wit (here's Patterico hating on Boehlert, if you crave some balance), and LA Observed blogger Kevin Roderick, a former Timesman, had a few words to say about the blog becoming a Republican mouthpiece:
Malcolm has developed a whole second life as a conservative media pundit off his anti-Obama platform at the L.A. Times. It's easy to see what Malcolm gets out of it — he used to be pretty anonymous even within the paper — and the paper's website gets some national Republican eyeballs it wouldn't otherwise. But if you're the Times suits, why not double your pleasure with smart voices whose loyalty is to Times readers over ideological water carrying? If you're gonna go down the cheap hits route with shtick that wouldn't make the LAT's Op-Ed page, at least play the rest of the spectrum. The LAT may soon have to compete at home with the Wall Street Journal and New York Times — and they want to make a stand by boasting they're only interested in engaging the reddest of Republicans?
Malcolm, in a recent interview with his own paper, explains the recipe of his success:
I discovered the freshness of almost live exchanges with the readers. Using in-jokes. Code words for regulars. Past references to favorite phrases. Throwing in little comments. We turned the old-fashioned, robotic inverted pyramid newspaper writing into more of a conversation with friends at a sidewalk cafe. And readers responded by 100s of thousands. So just like back in sixth grade Show & Tell, when the class laughed, I did more of it. Did I mention, I have never had more fun?


Anonymous said...

The once World Champion is now reduced to this. So sad and will only get worse.

Anonymous said...

Sam Zell recently made the brilliant observation that newspapers could send customers the paper in a PDF format in order to save cost. Reminds me of the Media News idea to give customers a printer so they can print their own paper. No wonder LAT is spiraling down so fast.