Friday, June 16, 2006

Three L.A. Times Writers, Including One Retired, Distinguish Themselves

Good individual work is often what makes a newspaper. This is all the more true when the newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, is undergoing hard times, owned by the wrong people in far off Chicago and subject to repeated cost-cutting decisions.

But the paper has been redeemed in part of late by the work of many individual writers, certainly Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber, Mike Goodman and William Rempel in investigative pieces on Kaiser Permanente and Las Vegas judges, and the great columns by Steve Lopez and Tim Rutten, but also by the work of three other writers I want to discuss today.

--Grahame L. Jones is coming into the limelight in his incisive coverage of the World Cup in Germany. Jones was raised in Great Britain and worked for years for the Times as a copy editor in Orange County and Los Angeles. He always wanted to cover soccer, a sport he loves, but for a long time soccer was of such little interest in the U.S., he was only permitted to cover it part time.

Now, soccer seems to be coming into its own in this country. The television ratings in the World Cup have been nothing short of spectacular, especially in Spanish-language broadcasting, but also, increasingly, in the English language coverage. Sometimes, the audience for the present competition has exceeded that for the NBA or NHL finals.

Jones is frank. His article in Tuesday's Times on the loss by the United States team to the Czech team minced no words. It was a disappointment, and Jones said so in unsparing language.

On Saturday, the U.S. team plays again, against Italy, and Jones told the readers directly that if it loses, it is "almost certainly" out of the World Cup. But in that event, his coverage will still go on, and the best matches lie ahead. Los Angeles has immigrants from all the countries that will still be playing. It is good that the Times is represented in Germany by such a dedicated and knowledgeable reporter, and Jones can take pride in his coverage.

--Bill Dwyre stepped down recently as Times Sports editor, a position he had held for a quarter of a century. All too often, people in his position would take it easy until retirement, writing only infrequently. But that is not true of Dwyre, who in columns and articles has been showing himself to be a really superb writer, working hard, traveling widely and choosing his topics with care.

In Thursday's Times, he had yet another article that probably should have been on Page 1, about Ellen Quarry, the loyal wife of a broken-down boxer, Mike Quarry, whose last years, before he died at only 55, had been miserable. His injured brain made him like a child, yet his talented wife, still a beautiful woman, stuck by him, cared for him and is truly a hero. When I saw a slutty-looking Britney Spears being interviewed by Matt Lauer on NBC this morning, I thought that I would much rather meet Ellen Quarry.

Dwyre was on hand at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore recently when the race horse, Barbaro, suffered a broken leg at the beginning of the race. His column, like the incident, was unforgettable. It too should have been on Page 1.

Dwyre is pleased but not surprised that Randy Harvey has taken over for him as sports editor, with obvious aplomb. But Dwyre himself is providing him valuable support by his excellent writing. He has once again demonstrated how great he is.

--Kevin Thomas was taken aback and almost crushed when he was forced into retirement by the cost-cutting Tribune Co. But the movie critic now has a second professional life, writing for the Times from the outside. His article last Sunday on the great actress Olivia De Havilland, who is about to turn 90, was touching. De Havilland was quoted as telling Thomas, about to be 70, "I'm old enough to be your mother."

Thomas wrote, memorably, "Generations of De Havilland's fans would recognize her instantly. The expressive dark eyes, the lovely complexion, the apple cheeks, remain unchanged." And to show that, the Times ran a terrific picture of her, taken by Damon Winter, that proved the point.

Jones, Dwyre and Thomas, all resilient writers. There is hope for the Times yet, particularly if it is sold to new, local owners willing to invest in the future of the paper.


Blogger LarryInPaso said...

It’s good to see that Ken Reich is posting comments at his blog, Take Back the Times, concerning his useful dispatches on the turmoil over ownership of that terribly important California newspaper. I hate to see something happen that will hurt the good job I think the Los Angles Times staff is now doing for its readers around the city and across the state. It is a kick-ass writers’ newspaper, which it never really was before. But as much as I disagree with Reich’s idea that control should return to any group connected with the LA elite, I’d like to see a good debate about that and related issues among former Times staffers like Reich. His site would be the best place for that to happen. Hopefully, some of those former staffers who have ears inside the Times will give up their anonymous sign-ons as commentators at Reich’s blog, and he can get a good debate going.

6/16/2006 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quick correction: Jones was never a copy editor. Yes, he has occasionally worked on the desk for sports when the desk was shorthanded, but he was an assistant city editor and bureau chief before switching to sports to cover soccer.

6/16/2006 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed to see that you disallow comments critical of your old buddy, Grahame Jones.

I used to play professional soccer, and I must inform you that Jones is widely considered to be the worst soccer writer among big newspapers. His insights are often superficial, and he writes them very often in an obnoxious tone.
He's been very open that he dislikes Major League Soccer, and is no fan of Team USA.

Not only is he rude in dealing with players, but he routinely slams teams, coaches, players, and refs---why even a couple months ago, he wrote an unhinged column attacking President Bush for the 'crime' of not being a soccer fan.

On June 27, Jones wrote a screaming column accusing FIFA of carrying out an 'obvious' four-year long conspiracy to help Italy in the recently concluded World Cup.

But since June 27, Jones hasn't said a single word about the obvious 'conspiracy' !
And one would imagine that with Italy going on to win the Cup, Jones might want to follow up on his Oliver Stone conspiracy theory.

That's just third-rate journalism.

Like I said, it's disappointing that you censor critical remarks of your old buddy Jones, but it ironically reflects that you have the same sandbagging mentality which is dragging down the Times.

7/13/2006 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken Reich, it's so ironic that a career newspaper guy such as yourself censors comments which are crticial of the Times---or more specifically---comments which are critical of your old buddies whom still work at the Times.

Why do you fear an open, honest exchange of ideas about the direction of the Times ?

You champion Grahame Jones, yet many people in the soccer community believe he's the worst soccer writer among major newspapers.

It's so ironic that you think Jones is a hero for criticizing the play of Team USA---yet you refuse to print any comments which criticize the writing of Jones.

It's one thing for a writer to criticize Team USA when they perform poorly---but Jones openly roots against them.
If you go to a website called, you will see the editor there characterizes Jones as "an MLS and American soccer hater."
(MLS is the American domestic league.)

He also politicizes his soccer columns by taking unnecessary pot-shots at President Bush, and all that does is reflect poorly on Jones and the Times.

On June 27, after Italy eliminated Australia, he wrote a screaming column about how FIFA has a four-year conspiracy to help Italy advance deep into the World Cup.
Now that Italy has won the Cup, he hasn't said another word about the conspiracy---not a single word !
Accusing the World Cup of being "fixed" is a pretty serious accusation---why hasn't he followed up on it ?

Probably because he didn't really believe in a conspiracy---he was merely venting on June 27 when one of his favorite teams (Australia) got knocked out.
But that is nothing less than third rate journalism.

I did a little research and found out that you're a buddy of old Grahame Jones. Maybe next time you speak with him, you could inform him that many of the Los Angeles Galaxy players think he's nothing more than an angry old guy who simply doesn't understand soccer.

7/14/2006 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you so resistant to posting comments by readers whom are critical of your old buddy at the LA Times, Grahame Jones ?

7/20/2006 9:03 AM  
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