LA Times / Mark Arax controversy
My original note to them:
April 24, 2007
I'd just like to say that having read the background on the Arax article which was not published in its original form, I am amazed that Armenians are still treated like second class genocide victims. The simple fact that we cannot even fathom a Jew being told he cannot write an article on the Holocaust shows the problem that Armenian are dealing with, and have been dealing with for so long. It is incredibly frustrating to be discriminated against in this way - even in the city with the most Armenians outside of the former USSR. I hope that this issue is resolved justly, which to me can only mean that this discriminatory editor be fired, and a public apology be issued to Mr. Arax alongside the publication of his original article.
Orange, CA / Yerevan, Armenia
Their standardized reply:
Dear Friends and Readers,
Many people in the Armenian community have contacted me about concerns that Doug Frantz, an editor here at the Los Angeles Times, interfered with a story being reported by Mark Arax. Arax is Armenian and his story concerned the Armenian genocide resolution pending in Congress. Please be assured that we take all allegations of that sort most seriously, and have in this case conducted an internal review by legal counsel and other editors at the direction of our top editor, Jim O'Shea.
I also want to take a few minutes to share a number of important points with you.
First, we will never tolerate anybody being discriminated against based on ethnicity, race, religion, or any other ground. This includes how reporters are assigned stories and how stories are handled in the editing process.
There is no reason, therefore, that Latinos cannot write about Latinos, or that Armenians cannot write about Armenians, etc.
That was not the question here. The question here was whether Mark had been personally identified with the important Armenian genocide issue in such a way as a reader might conclude that he could not be objective in writing about the subject. As an example, if I were publicly involved in taking a position on the Iraq war, I could not write on that subject without a concern by readers that I was influenced by that personal point of view. That is the specific issue Doug Frantz raised.
In this case Mark was not blocked from reporting the story, which appeared on the front page of The Times last Saturday, April 21. Mark decided he did not want his name on the article because of additional reporting and editing that was done to include more Washington-based perspective.
I am very proud of the reporting that The Times does on the Armenian genocide, and also the positions we have taken on our editorial pages. I am also proud and grateful for the welcome and support my new friends in the Southern California Armenian communities have shown me since my arrival here six months ago.
I look forward to continuing that fine relationship and the strong and open communications on which it is based.
Very truly yours,
My latest reply:
Hello David, and thank you for your thoughtful reply. I unfortunately feel like you have missed the entire point of this exchange. Your one paragraph summary of what "the question" is, is exactly where the problem lies.
Here is the paragraph I am referring to:
"The question here was whether Mark had been personally identified with the important Armenian genocide issue in such a way as a reader might conclude that he could not be objective in writing about the subject. As an example, if I were publicly involved in taking a position on the Iraq war, I could not write on that subject without a concern by readers that I was influenced by that personal point of view."
To equate someone's position on the Iraq war, with their position on (again, I will use the holocaust here rather than the genocide because unfortunately, it makes people see this issue more clearly) the holocaust is ludicrous. Sorry, but if your own policy states that there was a genocide, and that it is historical fact, then how can you possibly consider Mark to be "taking a position"? That is what you are implying. That there are two positions (Pro-war/Anti-war, Genocide took place/No genocide took place). If you are not saying that, then in fact you cannot be saying anything other than the fact that he, as an Armenian, has personally identified with this issue, as every Armenian has, and like Sassounian wrote, you are excluding Armenians from writing about the genocide, Jews, the Holocaust, Mexicans, illegal immigration, etc.
It really is that simple to me. There are no positions in this matter. There was a genocide. Period. Stating it any other way is a very inexplicable (and in my view) immoral pandering to the Turkish government and misguided Turks. Telling any Armenian they can't write about it, for that reason, racist. Again, simply imagine ANY Jew being told they cannot write about the holocaust because they personally identify with it. *Absolutely inconceivable* and you know it.
I appreciate that you had a lot of letters to reply to, but I would appreciate if you could specifically address this concern of mine, because it seems that you have missed the problem entirely.