Grazergate

GRAZERGATE….Ready for another scandal? This one is local to Los Angeles and it goes something like this:

Andres Martinez is editor of the LA Times opinion pages. He is dating a woman named Kelly Mullens, who works for a Hollywood PR firm called 42West. One of the partners at 42West is Allan Mayer, who represents (among others) producer Brian Grazer. This Sunday, Grazer is guest editing Current, the LAT’s weekend opinion section.

The scandal, such as it is, revolves around the possibility that Grazer was chosen because Martinez’s girlfriend recommended him. Both of them say in no uncertain terms that this isn’t true. Here’s Martinez:

The apparent conflict in this instance arises from the fact that I called up Allan Mayer early this year to ask if he’d ask Steven Spielberg if he’d be interested in being our first guest editor. Mayer is a well-known former journalist and public relations guru who is Kelly’s boss. Months earlier, Allan had come into the paper for lunch with a number of editors (at a time when I had no contact with Kelly) to talk journalism and some of the preemptive crisis management he’d done on Munich for Spielberg.

Long story short, Spielberg said he was intrigued, but couldn’t do it then. Allan then suggested Brian Grazer, and I quickly decided this was an inspired choice. I told Nick Goldberg, Current’s editor, and Michael Newman, my deputy, that Allan had suggested Grazer, and we all read up on him and met him, and were excited about his involvement.

I gotta be honest: even in the worst case — namely that Mullens suggested one of her firm’s clients to Martinez and he followed up on it — this seems remarkably….piddling. People know people. Ideas come from all over the place. Friends recommend things.

But hey. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is an ethical blunder of Biblical proportions and I’m somehow not seeing it. I’m sure that the massive no-stones-unturned internal investigation recommended by former LAT city editor Bill Boyarsky will eventually set things straight. But I will say this: today’s decision to cancel the guest-edited section is the worst possible response the Times could have chosen. (Martinez resigned immediately after he was told.) After all, the only way for their readership to decide if the choice of Grazer was (a) inspired or (b) corrupt is to read the result. If it looks like he used the section to pimp a bunch of 42West clients, then we can all conclude that Martinez abused his position. If it doesn’t, then we can all scratch our heads about why Times management (and the newsroom, apparently) went into full-bore panic mode over this.

But unless we get to see it, there’s no way to know. Regardless of what else they do, in the interests of transparency they should publish the section intact and let us see what Glazer ended up doing with it.

POSTSCRIPT: On a funnier note, do you know what Allan Mayer’s PR specialty is? Back when he worked for Sitrick and Co., it was crisis management and celebrity damage control. Here’s Variety:

Mayer, one of the few publicists with a journalism background (he ran Buzz magazine for several years), preaches the preemptive approach.

Handling clients like Halle Berry when she was implicated in a hit-and-run and Paula Poundstone when she was accused of child endangerment, his mantra has been: “If you don’t tell your story, someone else is going to tell it for you, and you probably won’t like the way it comes out.”

That’s especially true when a celeb is being pushed into the news by a scandal. “We live in a news culture in which the operative assumption has to be that a story is going to get out,” he says.”

“The idea that there are secrets involving public figures is an obsolete one.”

Sounds like the LA Times could use his help right about now.