The 50-something-year-old Ted Rall hails from Massachusetts, is a cartoonist, essayist, and author of several books.
He's got awards and award nominations and...well, forget all that crap; I love this cartoonist's chutzpah (but my mom warns me not to even think about marrying him unless he's Jewish).
I literally haven't been this passionate about writing since my blog post about Justin Bieber in May 2012!
Important emphasis here: Ted Rall is NOT, repeat NOT a "regular journalist" who writes unbiased articles about breaking news. He's an opinionator, and that should factor into this entire ordeal.
I am no expert on media ethics, but my understanding is the "standards" for journalists versus columnists/political cartoonists are NOT the same. I would venture a guess that opinionators are not held to many standards, except maybe decent grammar.
Here's where the most recent part of the saga begins.
On May 11, 2015, Rall wrote an opinion piece for the Times in which he criticized the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for their campaign to crack down on pedestrian traffic violations such as jaywalking.
In the blog, Rall recounted a 14-year-old confrontation he had with LA's finest regarding a jaywalking ticket. The LAPD and LA Times didn't like what he had to say. Someone (presumably from the police union) turned over a so-called tape recording of the incident to the Times to discredit Rall's blog account. With little if any real investigation, Rall was fired by the Times. Rall has published a detailed chronology of events on his blog.
My contention is that Rall (whom I don't always agree with) was not only wrongly fired by the Los Angeles Times, but publicly humiliated by Editor of the Editorial Pages Nicholas "Nick the Great" Goldberg. People like me who wrote letters were pushed to the side. "We simply can't be bothered by our subscribers/readers" I am sure is what they said privately.
In his note to readers published in the physical paper and on the Times website, Goldberg basically wrote "liar, liar pants on fire" and blabbed about the integrity of the newspaper being at stake because of Rall and warned all Times employees and contractors:
"This is a reminder of the need to remain vigilant about what we publish." Translated, that means if you cross the Great and Powerful Oz of Smoggy City (Goldberg), you are toast at the Times!
The first audiotape (widely available on the Internet) that I listened to is the equivalent of TV in the old days late at night: fuzzing and buzzing! Most of it is inaudible and doesn't tell us jack! But that was enough evidence for Goldberg to spout that the tape "proves" Rall lied in his blog. I say fiddlesticks!
Since the firing, the good folks at aNewDomain.net put together funds to hire audio experts and that produced an audible tape that is very different from the "fuzz and buzz" the Times was supplied with. Even so, the Times won't budge on its position, won't apologize to Rall and likely won't unfire him.
Ironically, many right-wing pundits (Bill O'Reilly, et al.) constantly lambaste the LA Times for being "left- wing loons," but Fox jumped all over the firing with glee when they wrote about Rall (go figure). The LA Police union also jumped with joy when they heard the news.
I personally encouraged Brian Stelter, of CNN's Reliable Sources (formerly with The New York Times), twice, to book Rall on his program, but as of this writing, that has not happened. Stelter did reply to me via Twitter, however: "thanks for the recommendation!"
The focus of Reliable Sources is supposed to be on the media, but Rall must be persona non grata not just at the Times. I'm very disappointed that Stelter, who I have admired over the years, doesn't see the importance of this story.
I asked Rall why the mainstream media, for the most part, is not covering his ordeal.
"If you're a reporter, or an editor, do you really want to go against a newspaper chain that owns 20 newspapers, knowing that you'll never get to work at one of them?" wrote Ted Rall in an email Q/A with Crusader's Corner.
Luckily, there are plenty of independent journalists, bloggers, and even The Guardian who have written about Rall. And the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) eventually chimed in and called for "an independent investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department’s tape of former AAEC president and member Ted Rall's jaywalking stop in 2001." Full disclosure: Rall is a past president of the organization.
The cartoon association further stated, on its website, "the Los Angeles Times should have demanded a higher standard of proof in this matter, and it is clear that Mr. Rall is owed a full and complete analysis of the 14 year old tape used to make a judgment about his actions."
However, the "Comics Community," in general, has not joined Rall in solidarity, writes cartoonist Mack White on his Facebook page, republished by Rall on his blog on August 21, entitled "Je Suis Ted"
When asked why none of the diehard journalists at the Times have spoken out publicly to support him, Rall said "Either they don't believe me or they understand that it would be the end of their careers."
For weeks after the firing the Times was silent regarding the matter (to Rall and readers like me). After I submitted a letter to the editor of the Times on the very day that "Nick the Great" told their readers Rall was axed, the Times replied to me via email on July 30:
"Dear Mr. Crusader:
"Thanks so much for writing to The Times.
"We are sharing your comments with our editors; we’ve heard from a number of readers, some pleased and others not.
"We are glad that you have appreciated this and other elements of The Times’ print and online coverage, and we are sorry you are disappointed with the decision.
"As Editor of the Editorial Pages Nicholas Goldberg explained, '… the recording and other evidence provided by the LAPD raise serious questions about the accuracy of Rall's blog post. Based on this, the piece should not have been published.'
"We hope you will continue to read the LA Times.
"Los Angeles Times
On August 11, the Times finally broke its silence when one of their attorneys wrote Rall a very short and not-so-sweet letter which might as well have read "The Times is right; you are wrong; we stand by the firing. Fuck off!"
Then, just recently, the Times wrote a dumb diatribe (online only, no print) about the entire controversy, again stating Rall is wrong, the Times and LAPD are right, bugger off.
I was so sickened by the diatribe, mid-way through reading it I said (to no one in particular), "That is the straw that breaks the camel's back." I immediately unfollowed 65 LATimers on Twitter, some of whom have covered my activism during the past several decades.
I also deleted all Feedly newsfeeds from the newspaper and will get my California news elsewhere, thank you very much.
I find it fitting to use Nick the Great's words against him, because if the Times can't be a trusted news source because of how they handled this matter, I can't rely on them any longer for my news/commentary (nor should others). And, if the so-called "investigative journalism" they failed at miserably regarding Rall is how they investigate other stories, we are all in deep doo-doo!
Just like at the LAPD, a few bad apples have tarnished the Times in my mind and I am proud to stand in solidarity with Ted Rall by no longer reading columns by the likes of Patt Morrison and David Lazarus or excellent articles/newsletter from Shelby Grad.
Crusader's Corner asked Rall if there were any surprises in the recent online Times accounting of the ordeal.
"Perhaps the biggest one is that they are doubling down on the idea of the LAPD as opposed to the police union as the principal source of the tape," he said.
"That and the fact that they don't seem to think it's necessary to tell the readers how the tape got from the LAPD or the union over to the LA Times."
He further stated, "Also, it's pretty weird that they had the tape analyzed but not enhanced. Maybe they did, and they didn't like what they heard because it supports my story?"
The Times handling of this matter has been so shoddy that journalist Gina Smith recently wrote an intriguing piece for aNewDomain.net "Times Trampled Own Ethics Policy. Why?"
One of the saddest things to me about this entire mess is that very few in the journalism industry are joining Rall in solidarity.
Independents probably have nothing or little to lose for taking a stand, but it would be nice for some of the heavy hitters to at least have Rall on their programs so that he can better defend his position against the Times.
Asked whether his firing sets a bad precedent for others who work or contribute to the Times, Rall said:
"It doesn't just set a bad precedent for people who work at the LA Times; police control over editorial policy sends a bad message to every journalist in the United States. I myself have never heard of such a thing before. Certainly, the police have often threatened journalists. But usually, their editors support them and tell the police to go away."
Apparently, LAPD is not the only Southern California law enforcement agency that is trying to pressure publications to stop publishing Rall's cartoons and/or commentary.
In an August 20, 2015, Pasadena Weekly article, Kevin Uhrich writes: "In his latest controversy, Rall suspects police officials told the Times to fire him, which would not be surprising. That same request was made of me many times by Pasadena police and other city officials."
Asked whether any attorneys indicated to him that litigation would be justified against the Times and LAPD on his behalf, Rall said "Yes."
I hope that in any litigation Rall may pursue against the Times and LAPD, that the legal complaint states under the Prayer for Relief: "No donuts for the LA Times or LAPD for one year."
In all seriousness, though, Rall doesn't mince words about law enforcement, which is perhaps one of his greatest attributes.
"Not only do they [cops] want to shoot people and abuse them in the streets, they don't want anyone to know about it. Do they really think the fact that they are a bunch of abusive thugs is a secret?"
LA Times should reinstate Ted Rall cartoonist Petition | GoPetition
Ted Rall Rallblog Page: http://rall.com/
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