Simers, who had a mild stroke in March, last made news when John Ourand of the SBJ reported that a TV show about Simers’ life was being shopped. Since that story dropped, Simers hasn’t written a story for the paper (he just had one co-byline). While it isn’t out-of-the-ordinary for columnists to take large chunks of the summer off, rumblings throughout the media in LA were that Simers was in trouble.
I emailed Simers, asking him about the rumor, and in a few hours, he responded:
"Not true, unless I am the last to know"
Well, unfortunately, one of the best columnists in newspapers might be the last to know. I’m told the paper will meet with Simers Tuesday, at which point his future with the Times will be determined.
Last week, I emailed sports editor Mike James and his No. 2, John Cherwa, seeking some clarity. When neither replied, I called the LA Times sports department. That went really well. I asked for James, but the secretary wouldn’t give me his extension. I asked for Cherwa’s extension, but she wouldn’t provide that, either. So I called the paper’s switchboard again and talked my way into getting connected to Cherwa, who picked up the phone.
I introduced myself, told him what I was calling about, and he said, in probably the least cordial way possible, “I’m not telling you anything.” I asked about James, but he was “not in the office today.” I asked for a cell phone for James. Cherwa basically laughed at me. I asked whether or not he would answer questions off-the-record or on background and he essentially told me to get lost.
(Later, I was informed that Cherwa lost his job at the Chicago Tribune for talking to the media.)
A few hours later, I received this unsolicited email from someone in the PR department at the LA Times:
"Dear Jason – I head up Communications for the Los Angeles Times and your inquiry was forwarded to my attention as we handle all interview requests and media inquiries. Please know that our policy is not to comment on employees, but we do want you to be aware T.J. Simers is still at The Times. Best, Nancy Sullivan Vice President, Communications"
I was going to ask her if the rumors that Simers hired an attorney and cleaned out his desk had any merit, but I figured she wouldn’t respond.
Just why the Times allegedly wants to be done with Simers remains something of a mystery. People in the department are being tight-lipped. Speculation about the TV show and his issues with Dodgers management (suits at the Times are tight with Frank McCourt) are already out there, but the paper wouldn’t be so silly as to fire him for either of those reasons, would it? The public relations beating the Times would take for that would be significant.
Just a guess: Simers won’t have any trouble landing work. Fox Sports 1, based in LA, makes too much sense, right?