One man's desperate attempt to quit the Los Angeles Times.

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
March 28 2007 2:05 PM

No Exit

One man's desperate attempt to quit the Los Angeles Times.

Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.

Can someone help me?

I've been trying for days to quit the Los AngelesTimes, but I cannot seem to do it. In the first place, every time I announce I'm leaving, a more senior editor ups and quits and grabs all the attention, and, in the second place, I do not know anymore who my editor is, who the editor is, who the publisher is, and who owns the company. I think it's the Chicago Tribune, although that might not be the case, either, by the end of the day, since the paper is for sale, or being auctioned, but not the whole thing, mind you, just the TV stations, a newspaper in Lake of the Ozarks, Ark., and an avocado ranch somewhere south of Bakersfield, Calif., which was started by Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, an early publisher, and which now appears to be the only profitable part of the entire enterprise.

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I walk the halls with my resignation in my hands. It is a brief document, rather nicely written, I think, but either I cannot find anyone to read it or those who do simply shrug, say something like, "Get in line," or, because they are in the Internet or TV section of the company, cannot read at all. I mean, they're functionally literate, if words like "functionality" can be considered literate, but they never get the meaning of things. All they ever say is, "Reboot, reboot."

I digress.

I work for a special section. It was created by some forgotten editor to appeal to people who don't read the paper and therefore would not know the special section has been created for them. That editor was appointed by a former managing editor who was, in turn, named by a former editor who reported, again in turn, to a one-time breakfast-food executive who was going to sell newspapers as he did cereals—presumably by adding honey. I work in an office that time forgot, a dingy place with one of the first Aeron chairs and an Okidata ink-dot printer. I was supposed to report to a guest editor, who was not a newspaper-man or -woman or even a newspaper-transsexual, but a Hollywood producer who was the second choice after Steven Spielberg (a little organ music, please) turned it down. This is how we came to Brian Grazer, a kind of remarkable guy, actually, who produced A Beautiful Mind and who wears his hair in the style of iron filings being drawn by a magnet.

I never actually met Grazer. I communicated with him through his assistant, Trish Kowalski, a nice enough woman who had her calls placed by someone else: "Hold, please, for Trish Kowalski." The trouble with Grazer, I quickly found out, is that he was being represented, public-relations-wise, by 42 West, an outfit that also handled avocado ranchers ("Calories Kissed by the Sun") and, also, that the girlfriend of an editor no one could remember also worked there. A clear conflict of interest. For obvious reasons, this reminded everyone of the special section about the Staples Center and also the bombing of Guernica. After the Staples Center section fiasco, the cereal idiot quit, and the publisher flagellated himself on the steps of the Staples Center, and three subordinate editors were selected for ritual suicide. It was a stitch.

Knowing Grazer's relationship with the girlfriend of the former editor whose name no one could remember (Coffey? Baquet? Carroll? Jedediah Leland?), my editor protested, stamped the ground, and disappeared into a blog of his own making, never to be seen again. Instantly, I got a call booking a call from Trish Kowalski, who personally informed me a day later that Grazer also had quit and might be replaced by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, if he should quit, which Trish thought was imminent. Obviously, I could not work for Gonzales, not because he was George Bush's enabler, but because his first wife, Diane Clemens, has a cousin who was in the Army with me ... a long time ago, but still. This I could not permit, and so, as you might guess and (I hope) admire me for, I wrote my nifty resignation letter ("It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done before ...") and will submit it as soon as I can find out to who ... whom.

Can someone help me?

Richard Cohen is a columnist for the Washington Post.

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