Hundreds of LA Times Readers Picket Outside Times Building To Protest Controversial Firing of Popular Columnist Robert Scheer
Publisher Jeff Johnson Refuses to Schedule Meeting with Delegation of Readers
LOS ANGELES -- Nearly 300 irate Los Angeles Times readers gathered today outside the Times Building in downtown for a lively protest against the firing of longtime popular columnist Robert Scheer.
Chanting ‘‘No Scheer, No Times’’ and ‘‘Bring Back Bob,’’ protestors carried signs that read '‘Firing Scheer is Scheer Madness’’ and “Fire Johnson, Not Scheer.’’
Protesters distributed slices of Wonderbread to passersbys to signify the blanding of the paper. Several of the activists in costume performed a guerrilla theater skit, portraying Jeff Johnson as a willing tool of a corporate billionaire.
With only 48 hours advance notice by e-mail announcement, the word had traveled fast with Times readers traveling from as far away as Orange County to participate.
A delegation of protesters requested a meeting with publisher Jeff Johnson, who reportedly has privately told people that he hated every word that Scheer wrote.
Johnson refused to commit to attending a meeting with readers instead he referring them instead to Editor of the Editorial Page, Andrés Martinez and Op-Ed Editor, Nicholas Goldberg. The protestors declined the offer explaining they wanted to speak to the person who fired Scheer and had the power to re-hire him.
It was officially announced on Friday, Nov. 11th that LA Times publisher Jeff Johnson fired Robert Scheer, who had worked at Times for 30 years, the last 12 as a weekly columnist on the op-ed page. Scheer had a substantial following, and very often his columns would be on top of the paper's list of most e-mailed stories.
On Sunday, November 13, an e-mail announcement of the protest went out to grassroots activists reading in part:
''Robert Scheer's anti-war voice is critical. Los Angeles Times readers will not tolerate the Paper's op-ed page tilting further to the right with the firing of Scheer and the inclusion of far-right columnists Max Boot and Jonah Goldberg with no one holding Scheer's spot as a passionate and contrarian national progressive voice.''
''We want to read a full-spectrum of voices on the LA Times op-ed page and know that our daily newspaper will fully cover the anti-war movement in Los Angeles,'' said Marcy Winograd, one of the organizers of the protest. "For many of us who have subscribed to the Times for decades, this is a sad and ominous moment."
As soon as word got out that Scheer had been fired, readers launched an e-mail campaign of letters of protest to LA Times editor Dean Baquet and publisher Jeff Johnson. Many subscribers have canceled their subscriptions in protest of the firing.
The protest also addressed complaints that the Times has provided very little coverage of significant anti-war events in Los Angeles, such as an Inglewood teach-in on the Downing Street memo, a protest of Hilary Clinton's pro-war stance at her Hollywood fundraiser and the largest gathering to date of Southern California Gold Star Families who have lost relatives in Iraq. .
Robert Scheer's Nov. 11th statement::
"On Friday, I was fired as a columnist by the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, where I have worked for thirty years. The publisher Jeff Johnson, who has offered not a word of explanation to me, has privately told people that he hated every word that I wrote. I assume that mostly refers to my exposing the lies used by President Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Fortunately sixty percent of Americans now get the point but only after tens of thousand of Americans and Iraqis have been killed and maimed as the carnage spirals out of control. My only regret is that my pen was not sharper and my words tougher."
LA Times Reaction to readers protests: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-martinez15nov15
A note to our readers