Former Columnist T.J. Simers Wins $7.1 Million In Suit Against L.A. Times

Former LA Times Columnist T.J. Simers

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury has awarded former Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers more than $7.1 million based on his claim that the newspaper discriminated against him because of his age and a disability.

The verdict Wednesday evening came after a six-week trial, in which the newspaperman claimed that the Times first tried to stifle his critical writing about one-time Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, then diminished his role at the paper after he suffered from complex migraine syndrome. Simers charged that the Times used his disability as an excuse to make his work life miserable — putting his writing under increasing scrutiny, reducing his column from three times a week to two and then converting him into a blogger.

Simers, now 65, claimed the newspaper took the actions because of his age and that it intended to replace him with a journalist who was roughly half his age–Dodgers beat writer Dylan Hernandez. He made $234,000 a year before leaving the Times for the Orange County Register.

Times editors argued, in contrast, that they initiated a review of Simers’ work out of concern that he had violated ethical standards. Simers filmed a video interview with former Laker Dwight Howard, in which Simers’ daughter tried to show Howard how to improve his free throw shooting. The paper claimed that the columnist was using his work for the paper to promote a personal project — a T.V. comedy centered on a father-daughter relationship.

The Times issued a statement through spokeswoman Hillary Manning, saying it would appeal. “We believe the allegations Mr. Simers made against the Los Angeles Times are unfounded, and we are filing an appeal,” the statement said. “Our editors acted to protect the integrity of the newspaper and to uphold fundamental principles of journalistic ethics. We will continue to work through the legal system to resolve this matter.”

 

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 10

Leave a Reply

10 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Thomas J Welles says:

    Regardless of the claim, settlement (7.2 mil) or appeal, newspapers are all hanging on by a thread right now.. I know I’ve worked for one. The Times thought they could get away with it and therefore dump his 200k+ salary and insult him by turning him into a blogger. Practically every well known daily in the country is laying off famous journalists right and left and starting to charge for their content online… Just the reality of things! After the Baby Boomers are gone there’ll be no need for newsprint.

  2. John Battle says:

    I’m sure the Times editors contracted a much worse migraine syndrome than Simers had after years of proof-reading his copy. There are few times one can say an individual brings absolutely nothing to their job, but this is one case where that’s true. It’s of little interest to me why they fired him – the larger question is: Why did they take so long? There are so many talented columnists struggling at small newspapers who deserve/deserved a chance to work at a major paper, but alas, for reasons unknown T.J. Simers had a job. Simers was a petty, condescending hack, but possibly his greatest sin was being self-indulgent while possessing an alarming lack of talent.

  3. Hollywood Mark says:

    It was actually more than that. The McCourts complained bitterly and repeatedly about Simers and the Times did their bidding. Simers had an odd sense of humor, but when he coined the “The Choking Dogs” the name stuck in the throats of Dodger management and ownership because it was a) taboo and b) true. Simers was constantly threatened with having his press credentials pulled by the Dodger PR department and he never buckled. Good for him. $250K is the going rate for veteran columnists and is another reason the old journalism model doesn’t work. They should have given Simers a buyout like they did many other columnists, but they tried to cut corners and he called them on it. This has nothing at all to do with the quality of his work from the Times side. It was a perfect storm. Let Choking Dogs lie.

  4. Huh? says:

    In what world does a columnist make $234,000/year?!!

  5. Tracy says:

    I had an email fight with him once after a horrible column he wrote. He was incredubly mean spirited to me. I liked his columns for a long time and then they just seemed personal and vindictive. He certainly did not want to be called out on that.

  6. Dunstan says:

    I sat on a mock jury focus group for this case. It was obvious the paper screwed him. I’m glad he won.

  7. SK says:

    I’m sorry that TJ Simers is ill, but he was absolutely the WORST sports columnist at the Times for years. Yes, even worse than Bill Plaschke. Where Plaschke never attempts humor in his sanctimonious, self-important diatribes, Simers tried awfully hard to be funny and entertaining and failed miserably at both. His constant references to family members DID feel like self-promotion and although I have no knowledge of what went on inside the Times, I was very happy not to be subjected to his feeble attempts at humor after he left. I long for the days of Mike Downey and Scott Ostler, two very clever and irreverent guys that the Times lost years ago.

    • RSFinney says:

      What I intended to write, I now read SK pretty much already wrote (and did a very nice job). So my comment is now an echo of what SK wrote — as a long time subscriber to the L.A. Times (I actually still like the paper), I’ve read all the sports columnists going back to the 70s, And I can say without hesitation, Simers was easily the worst in all the decades I’ve been reading the sports page.
      He never had anything to say that was insightful, revealing, deep, or entertaining. SK is so right, the guy had a horrible sense of humor. And it was horrible to see column after column filled with stuff about his daughter. Oh, my god, it now makes sense — they were trying to set up a TV show. How totally pathetic. I’m sorry, I just can’t blame the Times… if someone was clearly using his column to promote his own self interests, and he had long ago stopped writing interesting copy… I would want to get rid of him too! And don’t get me started on the whole migraine excuse… the only migraine sufferers were those who read his column every day.

    • Dunstan says:

      SK, I’m not familiar enough with his former column to evaluate Simers’s sense of humor or quality of writing. But the evidence we were given showed that the paper was trying to push him out solely for the purposes of hiring a younger writer at a greatly reduced salary. Age discrimination pure and simple.

More Biz News from Variety

Loading