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Why Brian Grazer?

Some questions have been raised in the blogosphere and in our newspaper (on Friday) about the choice of Brian Grazer to guest edit Current this Sunday, and whether our judgment was affected by a conflict of interest. It was not.

I think it’s important to address these questions, and innuendo, head on because our integrity is our most important currency in this business of offering scarce space in the paper to outside voices. This is why in 2005 I instituted anti-nepotism policies barring editors’ relatives from writing for our pages, even if the editor at issue is disclosed. No one I have a personal relationship with would ever dream of approaching me about trying to get something in the paper.

At issue here is my personal relationship with a publicist named Kelly who works for a firm that does some work for Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s firm, as well as most other Hollywood studios. Our worlds rarely overlap since the bulk of her work involves Hollywood clients and I am more interested in stuff like the Mayor’s school plan and Doha Round trade talks.

Given his well-known intellectual curiosity and his track record as a Hollywood producer, Brian is a terrific choice to kick off this quarterly program of guest editors. Brian and his partner Ron Howard have had a hand in bringing such stimulating fare as “Felicity” and “24” to the small screen (as well as my fav sitcom of all time, the tragically short-lived “SportsNight”) and such blockbusters as “A Beautiful Mind” and “The Da Vinci Code” to the big screen.

Two senior editors, besides me, agreed that Brian was a good choice, especially after a brainstorming session with him on January 22. And I believe readers on Sunday will also agree with the wisdom of our choice, when they see what Brian, who has long been known for seeking out interesting thinkers across a wide array of disciplines, cooked up.

The idea of a guest editor program dates back over a year. I believe we were already talking about it when the Independent of London beat us to the punch. Former publisher Jeff Johnson and former editor Dean Baquet both signed off on the concept back then. We approached Warren Buffet Buffett and Steve Jobs initially, but they declined.

What we ask a guest editor to do is assign the bulk of one Sunday’s section – four or five stories. The hope in asking intriguing personalities from various walks of life to serve as guest editor is to offer readers some compelling content we might not otherwise run, as well as an insight into the personality and mindset of the particular guest editor. We have approached well-known figures from the realm of politics, sports and philanthropy to follow in Brian’s footsteps.

The apparent conflict in this instance arises from the fact that I called up Allan Mayer early this year to ask if he’d ask Steven Spielberg if he’d be interested in being our first guest editor. Mayer is a well-known former journalist and public relations guru who is Kelly’s boss. Months earlier, Allan had come into the paper for lunch with a number of editors (at a time when I had no contact with Kelly) to talk journalism and some of the preemptive crisis management he’d done on Munich for Spielberg.

Long story short, Spielberg said he was intrigued, but couldn’t do it then. Allan then suggested Brian Grazer, and I quickly decided this was an inspired choice. I told Nick Goldberg, Current’s editor, and Michael Newman, my deputy, that Allan had suggested Grazer, and we all read up on him and met him, and were excited about his involvement.

At no point was Kelly involved in pitching the concept of a guest editor, or any individual. My conversations were with Allan, who himself had no role in our subsequent talks with Brian and Michael Rosenberg, Imagine Entertainment’s president.

The decision to ask Brian to do this was not mine alone, but was taken by three editors here, and then approved by the publisher. The suggestion that my relationship with Kelly had anything to do with this choice is without merit. Suggestions that she or anyone else has favored access to our pages is also absurd. When Allan has pitched op-ed pieces to the Times – and we can only think of two instances this has happened in the last year – he has dealt directly with that page’s editor, Nick Goldberg.

Neither he nor Kelly would dream of approaching me. One of the pieces Allan pitched was about diamond trade, authored by an African head of state. Nick rejected it. Another was about the Oscars, by Harvey Weinstein. Nick accepted it. In both cases, I was unaware the pitch was being made.

Because Kelly does some work for Imagine, we are planning on disclosing this in an editor’s note on Sunday. But I can assure readers she had no role in our decision to choose Grazer, and readers can make up their own minds as to whether this choice was a wise one. Thanks for reading.

 

Comments () | Archives (20)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Kate Coe

There's sure a lot of CYA in this piece. Can't Martinez own his choice?


"Two senior editors, besides me, agreed that Brian was a good choice"

"we all read up on him and met him, and were excited about his involvement."

"The decision to ask Brian to do this was not mine alone, but was taken by three editors here, and then approved by the publisher"

Why did anyone at the LAT think Grazer was such a great choice? CalTech, JPL, KCET, Oxy, UCLA--all ignored so some rich movie producer can play editor? The paper ran an interview in which he admitted he doesn't read--you should have hired his "cultural affairs" assistant.

It's not the conflict of interest, it's the utter lack of imagination and respect for your readers.

Harry Lime

Given that Kelly Mullens was the publicist handling the crisis management for the Isaiah Washington/Grey's Anatomy mess, it could be worth some intrepid reporter looking back and seeing how the Los Angeles Times Current section, under Andres Martinez' leadership, and I use the term leadership loosely, handled coverage of that very prominent situation.

Not to mention how it handled the McCourts of the Dodgers, who Mullens handled when she worked at Sitrick.

Andres, any way you look at it: bad lapse in judgment, pal. This explanation stinks of "me thinks the lady doth protest too much."

"Well-known intellectual curiosity?" Are you kidding me? All the producers and prominent people in Hollywood, and Brian GRAZER is who you think of for well-known intellectual curiosity? Oh, right, because he produced such paens to the intellectual spirit as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Blue Crush, and Kindergarten Cop. Please.

Worth looking into seeing whether or not Kelly Mullens had any op-eds successfully placed related to the pre-release anxiety about the DaVinci Code. Hmmm....

hbgrrl

If you have to offer this much of a long winded explanation on why you're doing 'what', then it's probably the wrong thing to do.

latimesfan53

The whole idea of a "guest editor" for Current has always struck me as a stunt, a publicity gimmick, not worthy of my beloved LA Times. In terms of the Brian Grazer involvement, it simply doesn't pass the smell test and I hope the Sunday Current section will be cancelled.

themann

"Allan then suggested Brian Grazer, and I quickly decided this was an inspired choice. I told Nick Goldberg, Current’s editor, and Michael Newman, my deputy, that Allan had suggested Grazer, and we all read up on him and met him, and were excited about his involvement.

At no point was Kelly involved in pitching the concept of a guest editor, or any individual. My conversations were with Allan, who himself had no role in our subsequent talks with Brian and Michael Rosenberg, Imagine Entertainment’s president."


yeah, right. mayer pitches an idea and mullens doesn't do anything to make sure that martiniiz likes it? sounds plausible to me. i can only imagine the pillow-talk between mullens and martinez regardging grazer!!!!

not to mention the fact that mayer and mullens probably wrote and edited the entire section. maybe martinez and mullens even worked on it together in their spare time.

talk about moral bankruptcy!

aquajo

LMAO!

timeshater

When I first read that Grazer would be "guest editing" this Sunday's Current, my immediate reaction was "what could they possibly be thinking?"

What on Earth qualifies Brain Grazer to even write an editorial in a newspaper, let alone edit the Sunday opinion section of one of the largest papers in the country? The answer, of course, is nothing! Of *course* this was a huge conflict of interest and a disastrous lapse in judgment!

It certainly doesn't appear that anyone at the Times even remembers, let alone learned anything from, the Staples Center scandal. Andres Martinez *deserves* to lose his job over this. I'm surprised Hiller didn't just flat out fire him.

But none of this even begins to address the crippling disease of political correctness, which is what's really killing the Times. Shame on you all for having the utter hypocrisy to post these glowing tributes to Cathy Seipp now that she's dead.

One thing that's clear is that, no matter how badly your circulation continues to suffer, and now matter how many times you continue to shoot yourselves in the foot, both with your agenda-driven journalism, and with preposterous management decisions like the Grazer fiasco, you'll never admit the truth to yourselves about the inward looking bubble that you've created.

The Times needs to crash and burn. You need to completely hit bottom and be gutted and replaced. What an absolute train wreck you've all made of this (once) potentially great paper.

Ken Shields

This was a cluster from the very beginning. Nothing justifies handing over your editorial page to anyone, but especiallly not a mover and shaker in the industry whose health determines so much about this town.

Can you imagine a New York newspaper handing over the reins of its opinion pages to Richard Grasso or Jack Welch, even for a day? OF course not. The conflict of interest is crystal clear. Likewise for the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Now if someone can get rid of Jonah Goldberg, I might start reading the back page of the front section. It's not his politics that are annoying, it's his facile interpretation of events that is so embarrassing to both him and the newspaper.

kanani

Brian Grazer's experience as a movie producer and big money mover does not even qualify him for a job as a cub reporter for the LA Times. May I suggest that if Mr. Grazer wants to be in the newspaper industry, that he start in the print room like Otis Chandler.

And this is what we're tired of: Hollywood people coming in and thinking they speak for the world. We're tired of them telling us what to think is important, of making twisted moral arguments that pit us against them, while they live very posh lives in the Palisades.

squajo

Still LMAO!

Lame Cherry

Dear Mr. Martinez,

I find your reasoning very British in trying to find a way to resign over what?

Over your being George Stephanopolous and landing a job at ABC after working for Bill Clinton and pretending you are not pushing a biased agenda?

Over your being Ted Koppel claiming revealing Val Plame was dangerous to her safety and then having 8 CIA agents on Nightline showing their faces revealing their identity?

Over your being Rick Kaplan hired by CBS news to "help" Katie when you just happen to be Hillary Clinton's best friend and she is running for president and you are going to turn CBS news into the Clinton Broadcasting Network again?

Mr. Martinez, apparently you do not know that all the "news" is in bed or their others are in bed or working for some political bias. So your girlfriend and Mr. Grazer know each other and Grazer is going to pen the typical non Andy Griffith American Opie, Aunt Bea and apple pie.
The only thing which would have been surprising is if Grazer had come out in favor of anything Mayberry, instead of sounding like he grew up in Moscow, was schooled in Paris and vacations in Tehran.

It is America Mr. Martinez and your resigning is British in doing something honorable over a situation which no harm was intended. Perhaps you don't belong at the Times, but where are you going to work in the industry where the entire staff isn't twisting the "news" to benefit leftists unless it is the right on Fox.
The point being you chose leftist Spielberg for leftist Grazer both of whom would do the same thing, say the same thing and bring about the same boring bash something America section. If this is a big deal at the Times, then the entire staff should resign as there is not a story printed or a story covered that someone there is not "in the know" with them.

All of my best.

greg ginn

The LA Times does a great job covering sports and an OK job covering entertainment and other light news. It is time that the paper throw in the towel on hard news, political, and opinion coverage. It is beyond embarassing to see what this newspaper does to Los Angeles. What was this movie numbskull doing editing anything???!!!??? How about "The Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Times"? But then again, would you buy a used Staples Center advertising supplement from this bunch? Pathetic!

Manley Witten

So a guest editor is asked to "assign the bulk of one Sunday’s section – four or five stories." Isn't that what the opinion editors get paid to do? I guess it's easier to print the drivel that Jonah Goldberg and Max Boot provide than to find intelligent commentary from thoughtful individuals about meaningful subjects.

And when the publisher kills the section because of conflict of interest, you question his integrity and make believe you quit because of your integrity? What crap. I knew we were in trouble when the editorial page editor began to report to the publisher instead of the editor. Boy, do I miss Bill Thomas.

If the paper has trouble putting together a section for Sunday, we have a group of journalism students at Cal State Northridge who can help you.

By the way, nice editorial the other day in favor of Walmart. Have you received any ads yet?

dimes

I called up Allan Mayer early this year to ask if he’d ask Steven Spielberg if he’d be interested in being our first guest editor. Mayer is a well-known former journalist and public relations guru who is Kelly’s boss.

Why did Martinez call someone with no professional relationship with Spielberg in the first place? Why not just call Spielberg's reps?

Oh yeah, because M's girlfriend worked for a 'pr guru', so Martinez asked her boss to make the first approach as - what, a personal favor?

And when Spielberg declined, the "pr guru" was right there to pitch his client, a function for which he is paid by that client.

Yet Martinez saw no conflict here, with or without the added piece of samsonite in the form of his girlfriend, an employee of the "guru"? Guess by then he figured he owed the guy a favor.

He was played, and he never noticed. I don't think he gets it even now.

Dude, thanks for resigning. I think your future lies in working for a supermarket weekly, where a cozy relationship with publicists is considered an asset.

RUA Friend

Martinez you're an idiot ... not just for bonking a flack and putting in print that she would never pitch a story to you (do you think we were all born yesterday!). Flacks pitch stories to people in the media - ITS THEIR JOB!!! Mullens is a flack, you're in the media - a + b = c. But dude, ask yourself why she's bonking you - because you're so suave, so debonaire, so charming, so witty or ... because you are (were) THE EDITOR OF THE EDITORIAL PAGE OF THE LA TIMES. Cum on Andres baby, you think she wanted you for your looks? for your mind? Accept the fact that she pursued you (she did didn't she) because she's a flack, and in LA flacks want to talk to powerful figures in the media in order to place stories and influence how they're written. And you're telling us no-one you know well has pitched an editorial or an opinion piece to you, that you haven't asked anyone you're close to his or her views on an editorial you're considering running? You expect us to believe you?! Pleeeeeeese!! Oh, and don't go on about ethics and integrity - you clearly have neither. Your ex-wife is one lucky lady not to have to deal with your "ethics and integrity", or Mullens for that matter, any more.

So who wants to place a bet on how long it will taken Mullens to ditch the dude when he no longer has any power in LA?

Jay Wachtel

Grazergate? Guest editors? What has the Times come to? I was aghast when the Trib sent a hatchet man, but it now looks like an adult was exactly what was called for. A.M.'s protestations are simply not credible, and his elaborate, name-dropping "explanation" is pathetic.

This is the Los Angeles Times, not the Hollywood Enquirer. Get a grip!

Gerald Kelly

Who was going to be the next "Guest Editor", Paris Hilton? Don't we have enough ill-informed self-important attention-seekers masquerading as "commentators" ? What a dumb idea!
Can we get the L.A. Times back to being a professionally-run newspaper ? Guess we have to ditch the Chicago boys for that.

Jane B.

Mr. Martinez writes above: "The idea of a guest editor program dates back over a year. I believe we were already talking about it when the Independent of London beat us to the punch. Former publisher Jeff Johnson and former editor Dean Baquet both signed off on the concept back then. We approached Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs initially, but they declined."

It's Warren Buffett, not Buffet.

bg mendell

Why Brian Grazer? It's gotta be the hair; he is a Supercuts spokesperson;
plus, he and Kelly Mullens did stay in a Holiday Express last night.

Sam Lee

What Kelly nonsense!!! who cares about what's her name, who's up to no good and she deserves all crap she gets!


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