Dec 8, 2013
Missing: The L.A. Times’ Provocateur Extraordinaire
Posted on Aug 26, 2013
By Mark Heisler
With the snap of a finger, management had reversed our well-received, hit-magnet, All Lakers All the Time approach. A year before, then-Editor-in-Chief Russ Stanton had invited me and writers Mike Bresnahan and Brad Turner to lunch to thank us for our work.
Whatever we had lost, we still had fabulous Lakers coverage with beat guys who owned the news and engaged general columnists who broke their own memorable stories, as when Plaschke got Kobe Bryant’s father, Joe, to acknowledge the family’s painful break.
Appearances notwithstanding, Simers had as many confidants as guys who wanted to shoot him on sight. He was the one Bryant told about his split with Karl Malone, revealing that his wife, Vanessa, had claimed the Mailman hit on her at a game.
So, yeah, there was a lot reeling through my mind, driving north from LAX, on the phone with James who confirmed my column was really dead.
That lasted a few hours until I called James and unresigned. I eventually got my piece into the paper—two weeks later, after two rewrites.
Four weeks later, they laid me off.
No, I don’t think Maharaj had anything to do with it. The sports department had cuts to make. I was 67, and had told the editors I would work one more season—which, with a lockout looming, the NBA was threatening not to play.
I’d been lucky. I came up before this puppet-on-a-string BS when everyone from the bosses to the interns felt a sense of mission. If many editors might have cut Simers less slack, great papers didn’t jettison voices like his on penny-ante ethical issues.
The hits have never stopped happening to the industry, which is staging its own disappearing act in plain sight, even as the economy recovers. Now, instead of newspaper empires buying the local baseball team on a whim, Red Sox owner John Henry just picked up the Boston Globe for $70 million, or about what he’s paying this season’s pitching staff.
Once the conscience of the community, newspapers are all but reduced to charity cases. Last week MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked viewers to patronize the down-on-its-luck institution, noting, “Your local paper needs you.” Of course, newspapers, which may employ 95 percent of the reporters still working, are especially useful for TV personalities and sites such as Red State and Daily Kos. Otherwise, they’d be—and soon may be—commenting on reports they get from TMZ.
In the new sports/media dynamic, the excitement crackles up from the audience via Twitter, which informs at lightning speed and engages an ever-greater readership ever more deeply—but as for providing perspective, is more like the Tower of Babel.
In the increasingly spider-webbed world known as “journalism,” the Los Angeles sports scene has been a lot quieter since June 2, and a lot less fun.
Here’s a thought that will surprise a lot of the Times’ remaining readers, and should: We miss T.J. Simers.
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