TJ and The TIMES
One of the abiding reasons to continue paying for something that can be enjoyed largely for free on the Interweb is to vote monetarily, to support some excellent writers whose talent and courage distinguishes them. The Times staff, which, like most major newspapers these days, is mostly voiceless and interchangeable, in the style of classic journalism. But it has its stars. Most of these scribes have a column of some sort, a place where their individual voice may be heard and celebrated, even when that voice is eccentric, edgy, or controversial.
Until last week, one of the truly great writers at the Times was a sports columnist named TJ Simers. His catalytic Page 2 column had been indefinitely shelved for nearly a month, effectively silencing the paper’s most sarcastic, gimlet-eyed perspective. He left finally, taking a columnist position at the Orange County Register. And now we’re hearing scuttlebutt that makes us wonder if we want to continue our 21-year subscription.
Staffers, who wish to remain anonymous, tell us that the underlying reason TJ was iced is because the latest publisher, Eddy Hartenstein, is a close pal of disgraced former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, one of TJ’s best (and easiest) targets. Eddy wanted TJ to go easy on the “Boston Parking Lot Attendant,” but easy isn’t really TJ’s style. Pugnacious is more his thing. When TJ got himself involved in some sort of reality TV show deal, the executives had a good-sounding excuse to censure the loose cannon.
We already miss Simers. His willingness to identify hypocrisy, mendacity, and obfuscation. His delight in telling it like it is. His unwillingness to kiss corporate ass. His commitment to trying to get down in 800-words-or-less why we watch sports. His stylistic difference from the pedestrian cliché-master Bill Plaschke. His sense of humor. His unfailing ability to provoke the stupid and angry into showing their true colors. His honesty.
We miss his writing.
Enough to drop the Times and take up with the Register? Probably not. But our suspicion is growing that the Los Angeles Times is already resigned to a slow, excruciating death, eating itself into irrelevancy from the inside out.