NYT Public Editor Comments On His Paper’s Untimely LA Times Bashing

Earlier this week, LA Times editor Geoffrey Mohan voiced the opinion of much of the LA media world, when he wrote a letter to the New York Times, calling their recent piece on the LA Times’ struggles, “a dagger in the backs of good journalists who have survived a withering battle and managed to hang on to our ideals, quality and integrity.”

That salvo wasn’t likely to go unanswered. New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane got back to Mohan yesterday in an email. Romenesko posted the missive in its entirety. We’ll cut to the good stuff:

For my part, I can appreciate why some readers felt this story was unfair. The distinction made by the editor — that the story was more about readers’ perception of the LA Times as distinct from the LA Times journalistic performance — was largely lost on me. I read it as a critique of the paper, and so did many others. I think this impression was reinforced by quotes in the story from John Carroll, a former editor, who seemed to pine for the days when the paper had massive zoning operations, the loss of which one might reasonably view as a reduction in quality of coverage.

Also, in the manner in which the article focused on the LA Times’s use of front page advertising, one might infer that the paper is slipping. Again, the distinction that this is a change wrought by the owners, as opposed to the LA Times itself, is a fine one that some readers might be forgiven for missing.

Finally, my larger concern is that the NY Times swings a heavy bat when it puts itself in the position of judging another newspaper — which is how this piece came across. For my money, the story would have been better had it included language that more clearly tried to separate the paper’s journalism from the critique of its owners and the premise that LA itself is slipping in stature. In addition, it’s the kind of story that, given its implications, could have used more language — and descriptions of evidence — to support its premises.

Read the rest at Romenesko.

Previously on Fishbowl LA: LA Times Editor Responds to the NYT’s Ill-Timed Sideswipe