The cast of “Spotlight” accepting the award for Best Picture

There are two broad reasons why you might attend the Oscars. The first would be to enjoy the grand pageantry of the insanely rich and famous congratulating each other for completing the difficult but necessary act of making motion pictures. The second would be to do your job. Prior to this past Sunday’s ceremony, Los Angeles’ newspaper of record found itself being torn apart by these two distinct functions.

According to Capital New York, the Los Angeles Times was allotted six tickets to this year’s Oscars ceremony. Normally, the paper’s reporters use these tickets to report from the awards, which is, after all, what they’re paid to do. But this year was to be different!

The Times had been allocated six passes for entry to the Dolby Theater – essential access to tell the story of the night by the big broadsheet located in America’s entertainment capital – but until the last minute not one of them was allocated to a reporter.

According to several sources in and around the Times, the passes went to the Tribune Publishing’s new brass. Tribune Publishing Chairman Michael Ferro and CEO Justin Dearborn reportedly used the passes, each along with a guest.

The last two were earmarked for publisher Tim Ryan, who was persuaded to do the right thing and gave up his seats after receiving a flabbergasted email from the Times’ film desk.

Ferro, Dearborn and Ryan are all new to the Times. Ryan was named publisher in September of last year (he makes $625,000 with added benefits that push his total compensation up near $1 million) after holding the same position at the Baltimore Sun. Ferro took a de facto majority interest in the paper just earlier this month when he bought $44 million worth of shares in its parent company Tribune Publishing, making him the company’s largest stakeholder. Dearborn was named CEO of Tribune Publishing only a week ago after coming over from a medical records firm also owned by Ferro.

The tension drips off the page. Why would you move your family across the country/pour $44 million more into the newspaper industry/leave a field as cushy as medicine if you couldn’t enjoy the fruits of your sacrifices, i.e. attending a glitzy awards show that in no way requires your presence? In order to get into the ceremony, reporters and editors had to send a pleading email to Ryan and editor Davan Maharaj explaining why it was necessary that the Academy Awards host town’s newspaper be able to adequately cover it:

Tim and Davan,

We on the film team were shocked to learn this week that the paper has not allocated a single one of its Oscar tickets to a reporter.

All of our competitors will have reporters both in the Dolby and at the Governors Ball. Here’s how they’re using their Oscar tickets:

Entertainment Weekly: 2 reporters, 2 editors

AP: 2 reporters

The New York Times: reporter plus 1

The Wall Street Journal: reporter plus 1

The Hollywood Reporter: 1 reporter, 1 editor

Variety: 1 reporter, 1 editor

Our reporters do not sit through the show, but rather use this access to gather exclusive quotes on the controversies of the evening in the lobbies and bars, deliver feeds on how the audience is receiving the host and solicit comments from the losers, who are not made available in the press room.

Entertainment coverage is a bedrock of this paper’s identity. To fail to send a single reporter on a year when the Oscars are at the center of a cultural debate over diversity is not only embarrassing, it’s bad journalism. Would the LA Times ever cover a political convention or a sporting event this way?

Please tell us that you will reconsider, and distribute at least one of the Times’ Oscar tickets to a reporter.

So Ryan, the lowest executive on the totem pole, along with his plus-one, got fucked. But fucked for the good of journalism, at least, which is really what it’s all about, as the rich businessman and his medical paperwork deputy surely would attest.

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