Thursday, January 06, 2005

Often, What Races Political Writers Choose To Cover Can Help Bring New Blood Into The System

So, often a newspaper can perform a public service simply by deciding to cover a political race. And I don't mean just one story. Persistent coverage can help bring new candidates to the fore and inform the public much better than television ever can what the real options are. Or, of course, let the readers know what corrupt candidates to avoid.

In my years as a political writer for The Times, it's fair to say that my extensive coverage of certain elections had the effect of touting good candidates or warning the readers about bad ones.

I don't apologize for writing extensively about Burt Pines' race for City Attorney in Los Angeles in 1973, about John Tunney when he was beginning his race for the U.S. Senate out of his Riverside County congressional seat in 1970, about Jimmy Carter when he was starting out as a Presidential candidate in 1975-76, about Ronald Reagan when he challenged Gerald Ford in 1976, about Newton Russell when he was running against Los Angeles Councilman Arthur Snyder in a special election for the State Senate, about Cathy O'Neill when she tried to become the first woman in the State Senate. Also I wrote very skeptically about Alan Robbins during his political career, and even once suggested to Robbins privately that he ought to consider "going straight," becoming less corrupt. Robbins said he was considering my suggestion, but it was too late. A few months later, he was indicted for taking bribes and served time in the federal prison at Lompoc upon conviction. I also was distinctly unimpressed about the political careers of the Calderon family on the East Side, who never saw a corporate lobby they didn't like.

Just in recent conversations, I've run into people who argue that The Los Angeles Times might now perform a useful public service were it to intensively cover an upcoming race or two.

A federal judge and a retired labor leader suggested over lunch last week that Los Angeles might come up with a better mayor, if The Times continued to write regularly about corruption in the Administration of Jimmy Hahn. I agree.

At a private party, West Side television moderator and interviewer Bill Rosendahl told me he felt his chances to be elected to the City Council would improve if The Times regularly covered his race. I agree with that too.

It's obvious on the state level that challengers to the reelection of Arnold Schwarzenegger believe their chances would go up with intensive Times coverage of state politics, which certainly seems in the cards.

William Randolph Hearst, not always a role model for good journalism, nonetheless was right when he remarked that newspapers are at their best when they champion the interests of the people. I never hesitated to try to do that as a political writer, although, I must confess, I thought I was a little over-enthusiastic about Jimmy Carter's virtues. He disappointed me as President, although not as a former President.


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