Tim Rutten, longtime Times columnist and editor with a flair for original thinking, dies

Tim Rutten, a longtime Times columnist and editor whose ability to penetrate Los Angeles’ many mysteries and contradictions won legions of admirers, has died.

Rutten, a deep thinker with a pucky sense of humor, was found dead Thursday after a fall at his Alhambra home, said his former wife, well-known criminal defense attorney Leslie Abramson. He was 72.

During his 40-year career, Rutten has moved seamlessly through the Times editorial board – city bureau chief, subway reporter, editorial writer, assistant national editor, book critic and columnist. He was part of the Times journalist team that won the Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper’s coverage of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

“His work is original in thought and lyrical in print, witty, well-documented, passionate, yet decidedly impartial,” wrote Tom Curwen, a Times contributor, in Rutten’s 2005 Pulitzer nomination for an op-ed for the newspaper.

Rutten used his Regarding Media column to unravel the complexities of LA, the nation’s culture wars and the eccentricities of media stars.

He castigated news organizations for silencing the horrors of war by refusing to publish the horrifying photos of the torture that took place in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He suggested that mankind’s deadliest weapon was not the nuclear bomb but the assault rifle, and that the Kobe Bryant rape case in Colorado underscored the nation’s two-tier justice system — one for celebrities and the other for the rest of us.

A native of San Bernardino, Rutten attended Cal State Los Angeles but dropped out when he got a job in the sports department of the San Gabriel News. He joined the Times in 1972 as an editor for the newspaper’s old View section and left the newspaper in 2011 during a round of layoffs. He later worked as a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News.

“He dropped out because he was already a journalist. Why sit in a classroom when you could be in a real newsroom?” said Abramson. “He was almost entirely self-taught.”

Steve Wasserman, a former Times editor, recalled that Rutten always seemed the grown-up in the room. Wearing three-piece suits and bow ties, he smoked a pipe and took an impressive picture as he rolled to work in his 1962 Porsche.

“He also had a lithe political intelligence and could analyze the backroom dealings of the city’s rulers as if he had a ringside seat at a papal conclave,” Wasserman wrote in a Facebook reminder.

John Arthur, a former managing editor at the newspaper, said he came to appreciate Rutten’s “wit and wisdom” while working on the Times’ national editorial board.

“I later became an avid reader of his weekly column, in which he gave brilliant, scholarly analysis of the news and the state of the world,” said Arthur.

Rutten also earned a Hollywood footnote when NBC released Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, a miniseries about Abramson’s defense of Lyle and Erik Menendez, who killed their parents in one of LA’s many high-profile murder cases. Edie Falco, who starred in The Sopranos, played Abramson and Chris Bauer, best known for his role in The Wire, played Rutten.

Rutten leaves behind a son, Aidan Conor Rutten; a daughter-in-law, Laine Abramson; a brother, Tom; and a sister, Paula.

https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2022-09-12/tim-rutten-longtime-times-columnist-and-editor-dies Tim Rutten, longtime Times columnist and editor with a flair for original thinking, dies

Alley Einstein

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