02 July 2007

1786) L.A. Times Managing Editor Is Out Following Genocide Denial Scandal and Heading To Istanbul

. . * Douglas Frantz is heading to Istanbul
by Jenny Kiljian

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Times on Thursday announced that Managing Editor Douglas Frantz had resigned his post effective July 6. Mr. Frantz' resignation comes amidst intense scrutiny of his decision in April to block a news story about the Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress by star reporter Mark Arax and replace it with a different, controversial story.

"I felt like I had done as much as I could in this job," Mr. Frantz told the Los Angeles Times. His next job will take him to Istanbul as the Wall Street Journal's Middle East Bureau chief. He was Istanbul Bureau chief for the New York Times and later an Istanbul-based investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times before taking on his senior post in Los Angeles. "This is a great newspaper filled with great people. I'm sure it will continue to pursue excellence in journalism. I'm sorry I won't be around."

The publisher and editor of the Los Angeles Times did not
immediately return calls asking for comment.

* Mark Arax receives settlement

The Fresno Bee on June 19 reported that Mark Arax had left the Los Angeles Times on June 16. Mr. Arax's attorney Warren Paboojian told the Bee that Mr. Arax and the Times "reached a settlement to forestall a lawsuit alleging defamation and discrimination." Mr. Arax has not commented on the terms because of a confidentiality agreement.

The controversy started with a story Mr. Arax wrote in April about the Armenian Genocide resolutions in Congress.

In memos leaked to the online political journal LAObserved.com, Mr. Frantz said Mr. Arax, an Armenian-American, could no longer write about the Armenian Genocide because he had taken a position on the issue.

Mr. Arax and five other Los Angeles Times reporters -- Greg Krikorian, Robin Abcarian, Ralph Vartabedian, Henry Weinstein, and Chuck Philips -- had signed an internal memo reminding editors that Times policy was to refer to the Armenian massacres in Turkey as genocide, without qualifying it as "alleged."

Mr. Frantz claimed that he put a hold on the story "because of concerns that the reporter had expressed personal views about the topic in a public manner and therefore was not a disinterested party, which is required by our ethics guidelines, and because the reporter and an editor had gone outside the normal procedures for compiling and editing articles. My actions were based solely on the journalistic ethics and standards that we follow to ensure that readers of Times news coverage are not affected by the personal views of our reporters and editors," according to an email he sent to LAObserved.com.

In response, Mr. Arax sent an email to his colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, which was also published on LAObserved.com, in which he maintained, "What the six of us did wasn't a public display. We didn't grab a bullhorn in one hand and a petition in the other and take to the corner of First and Spring. What we did we did inside the paper as loyal employees who care deeply about the Times. In no way should the carrying out of this duty preclude us from writing about the Armenian genocide now or in the future."

Mr. Arax further demanded a public apology from Mr. Frantz. No apology was forthcoming.

Instead of Mr. Arax's article, the Times on April 21 published a story by Rich Simon under the headline, "Armenian Genocide Resolution Far from Certain." According to an editorial in the April 28 edition of this newspaper, "the article simply provides a forum for opponents of the resolution to explain why they believe it should not be adopted."

Mr. Frantz's actions came as a surprise to the Armenian-American community, since the Times has been a strong supporter and advocate of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Harut Sassounian, publisher of the Los Angeles-based California Courier, broke the story in his syndicated column and called for the managing editor's dismissal. Mr. Sassounian and Armenian community leaders met with Los Angeles Times executives to work toward a solution.

Mr. Sassounian told the Armenian Reporter he was "very pleased" that Mr. Frantz had left the Times, "because he had made a serious error and all the excuses he used for justifying his reasons for blocking Mark Arax's article were proven to be baseless by an internal investigation.

"The only excuse was that Douglas Frantz was a Turcophile and a genocide denialist, and people like that should not be working in the field of journalism -- let alone at the highest echelons of the Los Angeles Times," Mr. Sassounian continued.

"I'm pleased that the story, which started with my column in the California Courier, ended up with the broad support of the community and various organizations, including the Armenian National Committee of America and the Western Diocese of the United States, as well as the thousands of people in the United States and abroad who sent letters to the Los Angeles Times executives. This all came to the positive result that we had demanded -- the dismissal of Douglas Frantz.

"The Wall Street Journal announced today that Douglas Frantz would be its bureau chief in Istanbul. This is the proper place for Douglas Frantz -- both at the Wall Street Journal and Istanbul. First, because the Wall Street Journal is, as I have said, more pro-Turkish than the Turkish Daily News and, second, because Douglas Frantz is probably more comfortable in Istanbul, where his heart and mind have always been. I'm sure he feels more comfortable working in Istanbul than he did in Los Angeles," Mr. Sassounian concluded.


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