This morning brings terrible—terrible!—news for the Hollywood community, who had been universally atwitter about the Very Special Guest-Edited Sunday Current Section superproduced by Brian Grazer that was scheduled for this weekend's LAT, opinion pages so jam-packed with action, adventure, and quirky material reflecting Grazer's legendarily restless, spongelike intellect that early tracking projected the paper to gross nearly $40 million in its opening frame. Tragically, the blockbuster project is now threatened with cancellation since it has come to light (Grazergate™ courtesy of LA Observed) that the editor of Times' editorial page is dating a publicist whose firm represents Imagine Entertainment, Grazer's movie studio/thinktank hybrid, a potential conflict that has many in the newsroom lighting their hair on fire, poking out their eyes with letter openers, and loudly wailing about having to toil in a town dominated by an entertainment industry bent on hijacking local journalistic institutions for their own nefarious, guest-editing ends.
LAT publisher David Hiller today admits to hand-wringing over whether the paper will run an extremely boring note disclosing that the internal diddling of a publicist in no way influenced Grazer's selection as Editor for a Day or just dump Sunday's disputed Current section entirely:
"I believe, based on everything that I have seen, that we have only the appearance of a conflict here," Hiller said. "I believe that the selection of Grazer was not based on this relationship. We have an appearance and not a case of actual undue influence.
"We want to do the right thing for our readers and for the paper," Hiller added. [...]
"If this thing was killed over this, I think it would be an indication of the moral bankruptcy of the Los Angeles Times," publicist Allan, boss of the flack entangled in this mess] Mayer said. "If the newspaper is so fearful of what uninformed people think that it would allow itself to be stampeded in that way ... I think it would be a very sad day."
The true tragedy in all of this, of course, would be that a publicist was made to cry about a newspaper allowing itself to be stampeded by the uninformed, unwashed masses, rather than by a qualified public relations firm offering expert stampeding services to deep-pocketed entertainment industry professionals eager to demonstrate the breadth of their intellectual curiosity. If printing Grazer's possibly tainted Current section could prevent a single flack tear rolling down a scandalized cheek, any ensuing, uncomfortable questions about conflicts of interest and journalistic standards will have been worth it.