Doug Smith: Why I'm voting YES

Award-winning Times senior writer Doug Smith has been with the paper for 47 years, working on stories that combine data analysis with public policy. He joined the Los Angeles Times in 1970 and his first dispatch was about a rivalrous football game between St. Mary’s and Loyola universities. Since then, Smith has trained his discerning lens on public policy and data analysis, contributing to news-making reports on abuses in the community college system and the effectiveness of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 1997, he was the lead writer for The Times’ coverage of the infamous North Hollywood shootout, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize.

Doug Smith, Geoffrey Mohan and Bettina Boxall

Doug Smith, Geoffrey Mohan and Bettina Boxall

Here he discusses why he supports the Los Angeles Times Guild:

After 47 years of proudly working for this non-union newspaper, I will be voting January 4 in favor of bringing the NewsGuild to the Los Angeles Times.

It has been a painful emotional journey to reach that decision.

I once crossed paths with Otis Chandler in the stairwell. He didn't know me but stopped and greeted me with the warmth of a colleague. Moments like that tell you a lot about the people you give your loyalty to.

Among the procession of publishers that followed Otis, others, in their own ways, demonstrated their connection to the staff. I had a chance and pleasant meeting with Tom Johnson at a career day at Belmont High School. Richard Schlosberg, in person, handed me my 25-year service award. (Few of you may know what those were.) John Puerner, who was here so briefly, gracefully made small talk with me and my son on a chance meeting in the elevator. 

You may not know the names of these men. But they were part of a company that valued and respected its employees.

It would be futile to try to pinpoint the moment in which I lost confidence in the company. Our recent change of newsroom leadership provided our managers a brief opportunity to restore some trust. They chose not to try.

For the first time in my nearly five decades at The Times, I, along with my colleagues, have been publicly scolded by my publisher and by my editor.

Possibly having understood their error, they have now adopted the tired practice of emailing staff-wide encomiums that say nothing of importance about anyone. That's the best they can do since they haven't bothered to get to know anyone.

I'm not casting my vote based on the Guild's talking points. I think they're over-optimistic. Also I am sure our euphoria over victory will be overtaken by some degree of factionalism in the ranks. But I know we can deal with one another.

I'm voting yes because our ownership has eliminated any vestiges of Otis's glow, and I have concluded that organizing is the only way to deal with our ownership.