Friday, January 14, 2005

The Business Section of LAT Continues To Drop The Ball

Even while the Metro staff of the Los Angeles Times continues to exhaustively report all the ramifications of La Conchita's fatal landslide, and Steve Lopez does his usual fine work, accompanying a Caltech geologist into the landslide-prone San Gabriel Mountains, The Times Business section continues to drop the ball.

Business, which has done two half-hearted stories this past week on the critical problems of the inept Union Pacific Railroad, uses wire service dispatches from Bloomberg and Reuters only this morning, Jan. 14, to report that a Union Pacific main freight line between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City will be closed due to storm damage for "a matter of weeks, not days."

In addition, Amtrak service will be disrupted on Union Pacific tracks between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara for an unspecified period, according to the story, and it adds that the Union Pacific will reduce service this year on another main line, this one between Los Angeles and El Paso, to fix tracks.

Altogether, the story said, the 90 Union Pacific trains a day that normally move freight in the Los Angeles region will be cut in number for an "extended period," although as usual Union Pacific was vague, giving no further specifics.

The New York Times has offered far more explicit coverage on the problems of Union Pacific since it purchased Southern Pacific and descended into frequent chaos. The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, has done little meaningful investigative reporting into the mess, which has lasted several years now and has been materially worsened by the recent storms.

Meanwhile, I am told, Business has failed to report an outage lasting for days in thousands of SBC telephones in the canyon areas between central Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. SBC, a Texas company, has often treated California with the negligence of the Texas energy companies.

When it comes to the incompetencies of government, The Times is quick to give coverage. When corporations are incompetent and begin to fall apart, it often says little or nothing. There is a pro-business bias here which would make Harry Chandler proud.

Or is it that the Chicago Tribune has sent the team responsible for reporting that Dewey had defeated Truman out here to supervise The Times Business section? (Just kidding on this last point), although it is becoming more and more obvious that a change back to California ownership of The Times, the telephone companies, the banks and the railroads would be a good thing for this state.


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