aNewDomain editorial — Los Angeles Times Editorial Page Editor Nick Goldberg finally broke his silence on Thursday with … a promise of more silence.
“The [Los Angeles] Times is not commenting on this topic,” Goldberg told aNewDomain in an email.
And now, the Times is no longer taking comments from outraged readers regarding the Ted Rall scandal, either.
The paper has closed the comments section on Goldberg’s controversial A Note to Readers, the blog post in which the editor publicly announced it was firing the award-winning cartoonist and essayist on July 27, allegedly for lying about the LAPD. Most of the 70 comments on the note aggressively call for the Times and Goldberg to acknowledge new evidence that supports Rall’s story and is sharply at odds with the LAPD’s story and, especially, Goldberg’s post explaining the firing.
In a post that’s characteristic of the bulk of these comments, “cmichaelswitzer” wrote:
I am astounded that this column remains online without any mention of the recent developments. Under any journalistic standards, this would be updated with at least an acknowledgment that the allegations of the LAPD are under question. The knee-jerk firing was an outrage to those of us who distrust the LAPD; the continued presence of this column is an embarrassment to the entire newspaper industry. LA Times, you are making it harder for me to defend the old-guard newspapers.”
Rall is all but vindicated in the court of public opinion. But no matter. All talk is over.
Goldberg emailed me his official “No comment” on Aug. 6 in response to my repeated questions about Rall’s firing. I’d also asked Goldberg why the appearance of the professionally enhanced audio that backs up Rall’s story isn’t even acknowledged on the note or elsewhere on the site.
Surely he’s aware of the 60 plus comments at the bottom of the note that demand at least that?
Disclosure: Ted Rall writes and cartoons for aNewDomain Media sites aNewDomain and BreakingModern, and he is editor-in-chief and co-founder of our new political satire site, SkewedNews.
Back in the days of dead-tree papers, newspaper editors were never really expected to respond to letters it received from readers about stories or editorial policies. The best a reader who wrote a letter to the editor could hope for was that, maybe, the paper might print it on the opinion page.
Online media is different.
On July 28, Goldberg blogged the note in which he explained the Times’ decision to cut off its long relationship with Rall. In the note, Goldberg wrote that a Los Angeles police tape it’d obtained contradicted Rall’s story about the incident in a May 11, 2015 essay. Specifically, Goldberg wrote, it flew in the face of Rall’s claims that an LAPD officer handcuffed him while angry passersby loudly protested during a 2001 jaywalking stop. The note said that, rather, the police tape portrayed a polite interaction that carried zero evidence of handcuffing or a crowd.
Rall and aNewDomain subsequently paid for professional enhancements of the 14-year-old dub of the 6:20-minute audio tape, fully six minutes of which was just static. Listen to the enhanced versions here.
The new audio appears to thoroughly back up Rall’s original story and appears sharply at odds with the Times‘ online claims as to why it believed Rall had been untruthful.
Here’s another question: Why didn’t the Times bother to investigate the LAPD’s story — or enhance the tape as others were able to do?
It doesn’t make sense.
One expects transparency and dialogue from major media, especially major media that operates online. This is the No. 3 paper in the nation. But the Times understands openness and fairness. Its ethics policy underlines those ideals, too. You’d like to think Times management would know better.
Whether the Times’ decision to clam up is on the advice of attorneys, or continuing internal investigations, or the rumored LA mayoral run by Times publisher Austin Beutner is anyone’s guess. Conspiracy theories abound, which is why talking is smarter than not-talking, always.
Look. It wouldn’t have taken a marketing genius to make the right moves early on in this controversy.
When the enhanced tape came out just four days after the Times’ got rid of Rall, editors could have acted. They could’ve acknowledge they’re decision to publicly air its firing of Rall had been wrong, and that the firing itself needs rethinking. The Times should have begun an investigation of the facts — these are journalists, after all — moved to enhance the audio itself and independently verified it.
It should be championing truth, not acting as an obstacle to it.
The longer it takes for the Times to right its course here, the less and less likely readers and, yes, Rall, will be able to just shrug off the mistake and march on. Surely there’s at least one soul at the Times who can see that — somoneone who has the power to act.
Rall told aNewDomain early this week that he finally got a response back from the Times, only it came via an email from Vice-President of Legal Jeff Glasser. Glasser said he’d be Rall’s contact on the matter from now on. Rall says he responded right away, yet Glasser has yet to respond to any questions.
Of course we are continuing to follow this story …
For aNewDomain, I’m Gina Smith. If you have a lead or tip to share, please email me at Gina@anewdomain.net.
Further Reading (update: Aug. 11, 2015)