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L.A. Times Publisher Apologizes for Comments By: Felicity Barringer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 03, 1998

New York Times | June 3, 1998


WASHINGTON—The publisher of the Los Angeles Times sent an unusual memorandum to his staff on Monday, apologizing for causing offense by suggesting that the newspaper could increase its female readership by offering more emotional and less analytical articles.

"I made some comments that seemed to stereotype women in an exceptionally unfortunate way," Mark Willes, the publisher, said in the message. "The plain fact is, I misspoke. And for this I feel doubly badly and extend my profound apologies to anyone whom I offended."

The apology came about three weeks after Willes was confronted by more than 200 angry staff members in a meeting that was among the biggest in the memory of that newsroom. The gathering came in response to Willes' suggestions, published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, that editors might start counting the number of minority and female sources quoted in articles, to make the newspaper more appealing to these groups. And he suggested that women would respond to articles told in a more personal style.

"I was gratified to see it," Bettina Boxall, a metropolitan reporter, said of the message. "But I was somewhat surprised. At the meeting we attended, he stood by his comments and didn't understand that what he said would be offensive. This is a step forward."

The message on Monday, however, had less to say directly about the latter issue. "He did not in any way address the enumerating issue," Henry Weinstein, the newspaper's legal affairs writer, said of the proposal to count sources. "Obviously a lot of people are very concerned about this."

Michael Parks, the newspaper's editor, called Willes' message "a fairly courageous statement," and said, "I think he saw quite quickly that his intentions were misunderstood and he wanted to put things right."

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