LA TIMES CONTROVERSY Mark Arax Memo to LA Times Colleagues:

Colleagues, You should know that I had a Page One story killed this week by Doug Frantz. His stated rationale for killing the piece had nothing to do with any problems with the story itself. In an email to me, he cited no bias, no factual errors, no contextual mishaps, no glaring holes…. Because his logic is so illogical, questions must be raised about Frantz own objectivity, his past statemen’s to colleagues that he personally opposes an Armenian genocide resolution and his friendship with Turkish government officials, including the consul general in Los Angeles whos quoted in my story. Frantz is heavily involved and invested in defending the policies of Turkey. LA Times Editor James OSheas Memo to Staff To the Staff: In recent days, many members of the Armenian community have registered their concern that Managing Editor Doug Frantz killed a news story about the Armenian genocide resolution because the writer, Mark Arax, is of Armenian descent. I recognize the gravity of this issue and I have taken these complaints seriously. Many staffers and readers have written me on this issue and I felt a need to respond. An independent internal investigation by a Los Angeles Times lawyer from the paper’s Human Resources Department and Leo Wolinsky, a managing editor who reports directly to me, is being completed. This is standard practice on complaints of this nature. All of the parties involved are being interviewed and consulted. As with any such action involving employees, this is a confidential investigation being conducted in complete compliance with employment laws. However, I need to set the record straight because much of the publicity surrounding this issue is inaccurate. First of all, the allegation that the story was killed is not true. Doug Frantz did place a hold on the story about a pending congressional resolution in which the Congress would recognize as genocide the massive deaths of Armenia’s at the hands of Ottoman Turks. The editorial policy of this paper is to recognize the Armenian genocide as a historical fact, although the Turkish government does not. The story in question was sent back to the department from which it emanated for additional reporting and because of concerns by Doug that the story, as written, might be in violation of the ethics policy of the Los Angeles Times. This was not because of the ethnicity of the reporter but because the policy prohibits reporters from covering stories if they have taken a position or some action that could appear to compromise their objectivity. There is no implication here that Armenia’s can’t cover the Armenian community or that other ethnic groups can’t do likewise. In this case, the question arose over a particular letter signed by Mark and others about the paper’s policy on writing about the genocide. Doug made me aware of his concerns, which is the appropriate thing for a managing editor to do. I agreed that we needed to resolve the conflict issue and that the story needed further reporting on the legislative prospects for the resolution’s success or failure, which I considered to be highly relevant. The supervising editors then assigned a reporter who covers Capitol Hill to report on that aspect. In subsequent days, the Capitol Hill reporter uncovered additional material involving the position on the resolution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reporting that elevated the story for California readers. The story, with the new developmen’s and the legislative prospects for the resolution, ran on page one of the Los Angeles Times about a week after the original was placed on hold. The original story focused heavily on the problems that the resolution was causing for the supporters of Israel, which was included in the revised story. Editors showed Mark the new story with the additional reporting and he was given the opportunity to add material or suggest changes. He did suggest changes that were made, but he nonetheless insisted that his by-line be removed unless the story ran as written. In the interest of transparency, a credit line was attached noting that he contributed. I made my decision with the best interests of the readers in mind. The story that appeared in the newspaper was the best one. Over the past two years, the Los Angeles Times has run 67 stories on Armenia or Armenia’s, including 26 on the Armenian genocide resolution and 13 that dealt specifically with the political fate of the resolution. This does not include editorials, op-ed pieces and letters to the editor. No one is trying to censor anyone. The issue has been fully aired in the pages of this newspaper, including in last week’s front page story reported in part by Mark. There were problems with the ways and means by which the decisions on this story were communicated. And while I am not going to make public the results of any internal investigation, I can say that no one has concluded anyone was biased in their personnel decisions. Also, while I appreciate the strong feeling this episode has engendered, an email campaign against any reporter or editor at this paper will not move me to make any decisions that are unfair or unjust. I am working diligently to resolve the issues raised by this incident and to make sure they are clear to everyone. I will do what I think is right. As the editor of the newspaper, I accept responsibility for our decisions, fully and completely. Let me make one thing clear. I would never tolerate anyone on the staff making decisions on a story out of a bias or because of the ethnicity of the writer. In this case, that did not happen. James O’Shea Editor The Los Angeles Times


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