Estrich Hopping Mad at Mike Kinsley

estrich.jpgPundit / USC Law professor Susan Estrich (who is notorious for putting Mike Dukakis in that tank) is circulating an email to, it seems, every female journalist in Southern California to rally support for her cause to get more womens’ voices on the LA Times editorial page. Am excerpt, with a few of the typos removed for readability (full text after the jump):

Michael [Kinsley] is an old friend of mine from law school, and I have tried and tried to bring this issue to his attention; to suggest women (such as Arianna Huffington, with whom I often disagree, but who writes a first rate column twice a week, which the La Times doesn’t carry, nor do they carry my own column, also twice a week, by the way… There are more wonderful women writers in LA than anywhere in the country; none of them are asked to write for the opinion section; Ms Magazine is based here, Elaine Lafferty finds phenomenol writers, neither she nor them is in the Times. Instead of calling Elaine for ideas, the new editors called the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, who recommended Max Boot… Max Boot?? The old boys network at work… and the paper, far from improving, keeps getting worse. A few weeks ago, I pointed out to Michael that they went looking for people to ask about their opinions on the war in Iraq: and found THIRTEEN MEN AND NO WOMEN.

Coming soon on FishbowlLA: Susan Estrich “Tr[ys] and Tr[ys] To Bring This Issue To [Michael’s] Attention”, A One-Act Play.

It is with great regret that I send you this message, asking you to help me in fighting blatant sex discrimination at the Los Angeles Times.

What could be more important– or easier for that matter — than ensuring that women’s voices are heard in public discourse in our community. For the last three years, my students and I have been counting the number of women whose opinion pieces appear in the Los Angeles Times, and the record is worse than dismal, worse than the New York Times (which has a woman editorial page editor), worse than the Washington Post, even worse than the Orange County Register (which has a woman editor)… I have been trying, quietly, to force the editors there to address it – – but things have gone from bad to worse under the leadership of the new opinion editor, Michael Kinsley, who replaced an African American woman, and now has three men in the top jobs, and 90 percent men writing for his section. Need I add that none of these men are from Southern California; Michael doesn’t even live here.

Michael is an old friend of mine from law school, and I have tried and tried to bring this issue to his attention; to suggest women (such as Arianna Huffington, with whom I often disagree, but who writes a first rate column twice a week, which the La Times doesn’t carry, nor do they carry my own column, also twice a week, by the way… There are more wonderful women writers in LA than anywhere in the country; none of them are asked to write for the opinion section; Ms Magazine is based here, Elaine Lafferty finds phenomenol writers, neither she nor them is in the Times. Instead of calling Elaine for ideas, the new editors called the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, who recommended Max Boot… Max Boot?? The old boys network at work… and the paper, far from improving, keeps getting worse. A few weeks ago, I pointed out to Michael that they went looking for people to ask about their opinions on the war in Iraq: and found THIRTEEN MEN AND NO WOMEN.

Then there was two weeks ago, when I did a spot check of a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday… and counted TWENTY FOUR MEN AND ONE WOMAN IN A THREE DAY PERIOD. Both times, I sent emails to my old friends at the Times. Neither time did they even bother to respond… Im certain they would have said: Well we just dont pay attention to things like that. Clearly they don’t. We have to.

As some of you may know, two years ago, when the L.A. Times tried to downgrade the column of their only woman news columnist, Patt Morrison, a number of us got together and launched a successful campaign to pressure the LA Times; while we (me especially) probably didn’t win any friends, it is better to be feared than liked, and we won.

It is, sadly, time for a new campaign. I don’t know how many of you saw Sunday’s opinion section (from my brief survey to date it seems many of you don’t even bother to read it because it is so irrelevant to our lives). But if you did, I am certain you would have been as angry as I was, particularly if you knew how hard my students and I have been fighting to have women’s voices included.

“FEMINIST FATALE… Where are the great women thinkers? Thinking so much about women has shrunk their minds.”

That was the headline and the whole top half of the paper….

This from the newspaper that fired Narda Zacchino, the top woman on their staff, and one of the finest women in journalism today…

This from the newspaper that had to be forced to keep Patt Morrison and not cut her out of some editions and move her to an inside page (Patt now appears on the op ed page, but only once a week, and that happened under Janet Clayton, not the current regime…

The article last Sunday was penned by a feminist-hater I have never heard of, nor probably have you, by the name of Charlotte Allen… her only book was about Jesus and religion written eight years ago, and as far as I can tell what she does is to edit a blog for the Independent Womens Forum which is a group of right wing women who exist to get on tv and get in newspapers attacking the likes of us. Wendy Kaminer did a wonderful piece a few years ago, pointing out how this group, which has no members, no constituency, no events, no nothing except media contact sheets– (a lot of them turn out to be the wives of the guys you see on right wing talk shows)… was created to give these women something to put under their names so they could get into the media. Since they have no jobs, standing, professorships, etc…. they put the IWF. It certainly works with the boys at the LATimes…. (a google search produces nothing else on this woman other than co-editing the blog for the Independent Womens Forum; her most recent entry comes close to celebrating Susan Sontag’s death….

This is what passes for “Gender Studies” in the La Times. Need I add that not one woman from Southern California was asked to write for the section…

But neither the voices of women, nor the voices of those who actually live here, nor (I think, but it is much harder to count) are there any women of color within a thousand miles of the place…. (I once asked Maxine Waters if she would join my efforts given that Kinsley’s predecessor as African American, and she told me she had totally given up on being published in the Times herself….).

Well fellow shrunken minds, it’s time to act.

What can we do?

First, I’m asking permission to use your name in a short letter to the editor which will simply protest the absence of women’s voices, especially women from Southern California, and the insulting tone of this article — perhaps if we didn’t have to spend so much time counting the failures of the men on top at the LA Times (5 of 5) our minds wouldn’t have “shrunk” so much….

Second, even better, write your own letter — the more they get the better.

The opinion editor is: Michael.Kinsley@latimes.com
The editor of the paper is John.Carroll@latimes.com
The publisher is John.Puerner@latimes.com

Third, clout. If you, or anyone you know, ADVERTISES in the LA Times, they need to use that clout to send the message that if there aren’t women’s voices then women won’t advertise and women won’t buy…. If we hadn’t succeeded with Patt, my next stage plan was to move to advertisers…. I don’t like this either, but you tell me how many men shop at those white sales, buy those Clinique bonuses…. and I’ll tell you what would happen if we used one-tenth of the clout we had….

The fact is that the LA Times isn’t alone. A story in today’s paper recounted the travails at PBS where, if you’ve noticed, they have added THREE MALE CONSERVATIVES AS COMMENTATORS, GIVEN TUCKER CARLSON A SHOW — AND ADDED NO WOMEN AT ALL TO DO COMMENTARY, HOST A SHOW; their review panel to review standards doesnt even have a woman….

I have been thinking for a long time that we need a group of powerful women in this town, “The Club” is the name I have in mind, to throw our collective weight around when it is needed — to make sure there is a woman on the list when Disney starts interviewing CEO’s, or to put pressure on News Corp to add a woman to their board (believe it or not, there isnt a single woman on the News Corp board, and given that I work for Fox News, somebody else needs to take the lead on this one, again I’ve even gone to Mike Milken on this one, lord knows if working through the system worked, I wouldnt be writing this email….)

Please feel free to pass on this email to anyone you think might like to be included. I feel no sense of ownership in any of this. Anyone who wants to take the lead, take it. As I look to the future, things are not getting better, and they won’t unless women like us do something. I feel like I’ve been fighting my whole life, and things are going backwards, and we just can’t stand still and let it happen….

Happy Valentines Day. Let’s break some hearts….

All the best,

Susan Estrich
Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science
University of Southern California