We followed the drama between T.J. Simers and the Los Angeles Times as it was going on over the summer. Now it’s reached a new level: Simers has sued the Times.
But Simers is not content to let this be about technical procedures followed (or not) in his termination. He says the Times told him to lay off then-Dodgers owner Frank McCourt:
Simers says his troubles began in 2011 after McCourt met with Times publisher Eddie Hartenstein. Simers claims he was told he might lose his job if he wrote about a charity close to his heart, the Mattel Children’s Charity. He says he learned he was warned to stay off the subject because of concerns that he was encouraging Dodgers players to donate to Mattel instead of to McCourt’s Dodgers charity. Simers says he and three other writers were told not to write pieces critical of McCourt.
I feel like there were a thousand good reasons to fire Simers, but if this is true the Times picked one pretty bad one. How can you have a reputation as a legitimate newspaper if you tell your staff not to cover the sports teams in your very own city?
That said: the accusation seems pretty hollow. I followed coverage of Frank McCourt closer than anyone out side of L.A. I bet and there were multiple writers at the Times who were absolutely brutal in covering McCourt. In a fair way, given the kind of ammo McCourt gave them. Bill Shaikin, for example, was all over McCourt for months and years on end, for example.
Of course there are other allegations as well, some relating to Simers’ health, so you have to figure that this is a “throw as much as one can at the suit and hope to settle well” kind of thing, as most wrongful termination cases, especially high-profile ones, don’t see a courtroom.