Monday, January 10, 2005

Some Good, Some Bad At The Los Angeles Times

Not every great article in The Los Angeles Times is a multi-day expose of the King/Drew Medical Center.

Jean Guccione's article last week on what long sequestered Grand Jury transcripts indicated about the death of actress Lana Clarkson, allegedly at the hands of Phil Spector, was a terrific piece of reporting, written with Guccione's usual skill. Today, (Jan. 10) there's a longer piece on the subject. Kudos also to the lawyers who helped spring these records from a secretive justice system.

Two articles Sunday, Jan. 9, in the Travel section are worthy of congratulations as well. Kenneth Weiss wrote with verve on a trip he and his girlfriend took to Morro Bay. What I particularly liked about it was that Ken did not allow a rainstorm to detract from their enjoyment of this fine town, a mecca for winter bird watchers. Instead, he repeatedly mentioned the storm, but also said the couple had a great time. (I was in Morro Bay myself recently to visit my old friend, retired Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis, now ailing).

Jane Engle's report in Travel, "You're abroad and tragedy strikes. How prepared are you?" was both timely and highly informative, the kind of service Travel should be performing.

Since I'm often critical of The Times editorial pages, I hasten to compliment two editorials of recent days, one on the need to put more U.S. pressure on the Musharraf regime in Pakistan and, another, today complimenting Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State-designate, on a "Promising Start." It is certainly appropriate for the editorial pages to stop screeching so much and start being constructive. A recent editorial urging the importance of going ahead with the Iraqi election was also worthy of note.

However, two reports in today's Times leave quite a bit to be desired. Eugene McCarthy, a presidential candidate whose campaign I once covered, used to say that Monday newspapers weren't as good as they should be and not nearly as good as those the rest of the week.

That is certainly true with weather stories in the Monday LAT. Today's is lengthy, but still leaves out such key details as the total rainfall since July 1 in Los Angeles, and numerous road closures. The Times lists road closures in San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties this morning, where, of course, the paper does have circulation, but it is woefully short on listing road closures in Los Angeles County, particularly in the canyons between the San Fernando Valley and the rest of Los Angeles. KNX radio has been doing a far better job.

It is of vital interest to thousands of Los Angelenos that for long periods during the storm Laurel Canyon, Coldwater Canyon and Beverly Glen have all been closed to through traffic. Why aren't they mentioned this morning, and how can The Times possibly say it has a Valley Edition, without a Valley story on the storm? No wonder Times circulation has been sliding so badly.

Another example of inadequacy in the paper this morning was the lead story in the notoriously weak Business section on the troubles of the Union Pacific railroad. How could such a story be written and not mention the crippling effects that Union Pacific congestion has had on Amtrak service on the Sunset Limited? And how could this story say that Union Pacific "began suffering major bottlenecks" last spring, for the second time in six years?

Our Business section ought to wake up. Union Pacific has had severe congestion ever since it it took over the Southern Pacific Railroad several years ago. The New York Times has detailed these problems much more comprehensively than The Los Angeles Times.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with you about the Kenneth Weiss piece. After reading the article, I told my wife that I was planning a weekend getaway to Morro Bay.

I also agree about the lack of information on road closures in the Valley. I'm always puzzled when I pick up the Valley addition and the only Valley-related information are little tid-bits on who died.

Keep up the good work!

1/10/2005 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only was The Times lax in reporting road closures in the Valley -- some of the streets were major arteries to the Westside and Hollywood -- but it skimped on or ignored altogether mudslides, damage to homes, traffic snarls and other road closures in L.A. County in followup weather stories. I think part of this problem lies in the fact that those running the paper now are from the East Coast and the Midwest and are not familiar with Southern California's weather, and what happens when you have brush fires in the summer and heavy rains in the winter. With all the tragic fires we've had in the last couple years, the Metro staff should have been ready for the rain, and its consequences, especially after reporting in a forecast that Southern California would get up to 20 inches of water in a short period of time. They got a good lesson over the last two weeks of what happens when these two elements occur, but its unfortunate that these people are learning at the reader's expense. There are few in charge at the paper now who have a sense of L.A.'s history.

1/12/2005 2:38 PM  
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