L.A. Confidential

In the PR biz, especially among the media relations set, prospective clients and employers frequently judge one’s potential prowess by the girth of his or her Rolodex.

For the youthful readers of this space, a Rolodex is a physical apparatus containing rigid, but flippable cards on which one registers, with pen or pencil, contact info for your social network of friends and business associates. It typically sits on one’s desk (versus desktop). See image at right.

Not one, but two Rolodexes came into play for a story that appears on the business pages of today’s Los Angeles Times. It revolves around the Rolodexes of Hollywood player Brian Grazer and his publicist.

Someone at The Times decided to have Brian mine his Rolodex for “a stable of writers” to contribute to the Times’s Sunday “Current” section.

So far, so good until…it was learned that the publicist may have tapped a prominent member of her Rolodex — her boyfriend — to green light the deal. That person happens to be the paper’s editorial page editor.

“I believe my personal relationships are a private matter,” the publicist noted. “That said, I have a great respect and a keen understanding of journalism and journalistic ethics. I have never let my personal relationships interfere with my work and any suggestion to the contrary is insulting and untrue.”

While this supposed scandal doesn’t compare to the Staples Center fiasco of some years ago, the reaction by several noble members of the newsroom speaks volumes about how the PR profession is perceived.

“We’re concerned that even the appearance of a conflict is enough to discredit the hard work of reporters and editors in the newsroom,” said Charles Ornstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter. “This newspaper has worked very hard, even during these trying times, to consistently improve our coverage and remain upbeat about our future. To face a potential scandal is really discouraging.”

The publicist-in-question’s boss, Allan Mayer, who apparently orchestrated the deal, weighed in with some bridge-burning words:

“If this thing was killed over this, I think it would be an indication of the moral bankruptcy of the Los Angeles Times,” Mayer said. “If the newspaper is so fearful of what uninformed people think that it would allow itself to be stampeded in that way … I think it would be a very sad day.”

I guess, for some journos, a perfectly legitimate editorial idea made by a publicist rises to the level of “scandal.” At least the personal e-mail exchanges between the publicist and the editor, if they even exist, were not insidiously revealed to advance a PR (or legal) agenda.

Update: Editorial Page Editor Quits; Grazer pieces canned.