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