Thursday, January 13, 2005

Promotion of Frank Clifford Is A Good Move At L.A. Times

The promotion of Frank Clifford from editor of environmental news for The Los Angeles Times' Metro section to the post of environmental editor nationwide is a wise move.

Clifford has done a fine job in his environmental responsibilities thus far, taking advantage of such talented and committed environmental writers as Kenneth Weiss and Julie Cart. Now, he's going to continue to supervise those writers, but will also take in hand national coverage which has been less distinguished in this area.

Clifford, a Yale graduate who has been with The Times for more than 20 years, is tough-minded and independent. He believes in the environment and is a hardnosed critic of the Bush Administration in this regard without being an ideologue. He is liberal, but not a mindless liberal. There is a streak of realism in Frank that could be seen in his coverage years ago of the inept Rose Bird in her hapless campaign to remain as Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Clifford is also not afraid to speak up in an organization that has too many sycophants.

Clifford's 2002 book, "The Backbone of the World, A Portrait of the Vanishing West Along the Continental Divide," was excellent. It deserves to be read by every lover of the Mountain West. When I took a 4,800-mile drive through the region last summer, Frank recommended a number of places for me to stay, including the fabulous Chico's at Pray, Montana. He also is an expert on Alaska and the Yukon.

Let's hope this move, announced jointly by Janet Clayton, the assistant managing editor in charge of Metro and Scott Kraft, the able national editor, marks a more assertive managerial position by Clayton, who needs to crack the whip among assistant Metro editors, some of whom do not arrive even on the busiest news days until 10 a.m.

I think it is these editors, rather than the writers, who are to blame for such lassitude that it took The Times this week four days to finally do a story on the storm-forced closure of most of the canyon roads between the Valley and the West Side. Even when it finally appeared today, Jan. 13, this story said the roads had been closed for only three days when they had been closed for four, and failed to note clearly the resulting congestion on Sunset Blvd. through Beverly Hills, Westwood and Brentwood. The condition grew so bad Wednesday night that KNX, which has done a far better job than The Times of covering the road closures, cryptically referred to Westwood as being "in gridlock." This is the word when it takes more than an hour to drive from West Hollywood to the San Diego Freeway.

Frank Clifford, I should make clear, has nothing to do with traffic coverage. What he does is done well, even though he is so conscientious, he frequently is overworked. One of his challenges in his new job will be to efficiently manage his time.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, the LAT shows a lack of respect for issues that impact the Valley's residents. That's 1.5 million people that are being dissed by the area's largest newspaper.

1/13/2005 3:50 PM  
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