Journalists’ first responsibility is to stockholders, not journalism. LA Times’ editor deserved what he got for not getting it. 1/25/08Posted by Steve Boriss in LA Times, Shareholders.
Last week’s ousting of LA Times editor James O’Shea under the paper’s new Sam Zell regime ought to serve as a cautionary tale for journalists who want to survive the next round of layoffs. In his farewell remarks to his newsroom, he decried the paper’s “voodoo economics” before offering voodoo economics of this own. Journalists, not accountants, should seize responsibility for newspapers’ financial health, determine their own staff sizes, and decide how much news is reported. Journalists, not readers, should decide what is covered — “we must tell people what they want to know and — even more important — what they might not want to know,” he insisted. And all those other little people it takes to make a newspaper successful can just buzz-off — managers, shareholders, sales/marketing staffs, financial analysts, HR folks, operations people, even the papers’ own readers. Journalists can do it all on their own.
Sorry to break this to you, Mr. O’Shea, but you are nothing but a cog in a wheel. You live in America, where news is a business and shareholders support your efforts only because they want to make a profit. If they didn’t, they would be investing in a charity instead. And if you cannot accept this, you ought to work for the few news outlets that do not operate as businesses. Outlets that are funded by taxpayers through NPR and PBS. Magazines that are supported by the politically active, like The Nation and the National Review. Newspapers that are supported by churches, like The Washington Times and The Christian Science Monitor. Hey, if your work is so damn important, why not become a blogger and write whatever you damn well please? But I suppose that wouldn’t work. That would mean that for the privilege of telling people what you want them to hear, you would have to make a sacrifice. Not somebody else, like shareholders.