Steve Lopez, one of LAT's Best Political Writers
Steve Lopez's column of Friday, December 10, on the Board of Supervisors' ultimate responsibility for doing little or nothing effective about the mess at the King/Drew Medical Center establishes once again that he is one of the L.A. Times' best political writers, among his many other exploits.
Steve offers at the outset of the column to buy fish tacos at Senor Fish "for the first reader who can tell me the last time a Los Angeles County supervisor was run out of office." (http://www.latimes.com/). Well, I might immodestly claim the tacos, because, as a political writer, I had quite a bit to do with inducing then-Supervisor Ernest E. Debs not to run for a fifth term in 1974. Of course, Ed Edelman getting into the race also had something to do with pushing Debs out.
The King/Drew issue marks the second time in just the last week or two that Lopez has performed a political tour de force in his column. He's also been writing very incisively about the crisis in state worker's comp, and, as usual, he's not been over-impressed by the performance of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Lopez is not the only columnist in the country who often outshines the regular political writers, and one thing that allows him to do that is that he has permission to write subjectively. This is also the reason Time magazine often has superior political coverage. The objectivity to which the regular political writers are often compelled to adhere amounts to a straitjacket in which they are playing a game which prevents them from being straightforward and honest.
Of course, it's up to the reader to decide individually what the columnist's bias is, and whether it's a sound analysis.
When Otis Chandler, Bill Thomas, Ed Guthman and Mark Murphy were fashioning Times political coverage along independent lines in the 1960s, one of the key things they did was to allow the political writers of that day, Carl Greenberg, Dick Bergholz, Bill Boyarsky, me and the Washington writers more latitude to be interpretive. In effect, we became more like the columnists and were often free to say quite a bit of what we thought in the news columns.
Things began to change when Noel Greenwood became metro editor. He wasn't as interested in political coverage, for one thing, and he instituted more restrictive editing policies for a second. But this had its stops and starts. When Narda Zucchino was political editor, for example, I felt freest to write of any time in my political writing years.
Times political coverage now has become too bland. The regular writers are often held on too tight a leash, and the Sacramento bureau in particular has frequently been too rigidly supervised out of Los Angeles.
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