Wednesday, March 09, 2005

A Truncated Metro Fails To Use Its Own Writers When It Should

When Los Angeles Times editors changed Metro into the California section, they promised to expand the number of pages and deliver a more comprehensive package. But now, like other sections of the paper, the section has fallen too often victim to Tribune cost-cutting. On many days, it is inadequate. What The Times needs is a California, not a greedy Chicago owner.

I was reminded of this Sunday, March 6, when the California section ran a stringer on a significant story -- the future of the Monterey peninsula. Not so long ago, The
Times would have sent its own writer to do this story, and it wouldn't have been nearly so short.

What happens to the Monterey Peninsula is an important environmental story in California, and this should have been taken in hand by the paper's new environmental editor, Frank Clifford. He has excellent writers who would have cared about the Monterey Peninsula.

The stringer they got, Irwin Speizer, was highly celebrity conscious, putting undue emphasis on Clint Eastwood and Arnold Palmer being among the owners who want to further develop the peinsula, cutting down 17,000 of its venerable Monterey pines, while conserving others, to make room for new housing and commercial development along the cherished 17-Mile Drive.

Speizer barely mentions that Peter Ueberroth and other bigtime businessmen also own the development that now would be expanded, if it gets the necessary approvals.

Ueberroth explained to me the last time I saw him last year that in exchange for the required approvals, his firm was willing to guarantee the rest of the trees and other undeveloped areas in perpetuity. Some of these assurances should have been mentioned in the story. A more detailed account of how the new development would affect the scenery and existing private property also should have been included.

I hope under Tribune ownership, The Times won't start using Yosemite National Park as another locale for stringer stories, or the San Francisco Bay, the Redwoods or Death Valley. I hope it remains a paper with statewide, not just Los Angeles-Orange County interests.

Make no mistake about it, the present Times is in decline. Under Tribune ownership, it is like a colony. I visited the Falkland Islands last week. There, 4,000 willing citizens are prospering under British rule. We, however, are not prospering under Chicago rule, and if Antonio Villaraigosa is, as is now expected, elected mayor, maybe he can pursue new owners for Los Angeles' newspaper as well.

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