Sunday, May 13, 2007

LAT Brush-fire Coverage Last Week Was Terrific

It is the driest rainfall season thus far in Los Angeles' recorded history, little more than three inches of rain since July 1, and in the last week alone two major brush-fires have struck Southern California, one in Los Angeles' huge Griffith Park, the other on Santa Catalina Island.

Both conflagrations, were it not for massive firefighting capabilities and implementation, easily could have destroyed many homes. On Catalina, all of the city of Avalon, one of the metropolitan area's favorite destinations, could have been lost.

But thanks to successful organization, and particularly in Catalina's case, a massive transport of fire engines, aircraft and personnel to the scene from the Mainland, thanks to the military and several law enforcement agencies, only one home and a few commercial structures were lost.

If California seemed readier than ever to confront disaster, the Los Angeles Times was also ready. Its coverage of both fires was massive, quick and constituted a major success. Although television news did a great job too, the paper could take pride in the product it delivered its readers, and it was evident that the organization of the Times coverage was better than it had been in some disasters in the past.

The Times spot coverage the first day of the Northridge earthquake won a Pulitzer Prize, but it was probably not better than the newspaper displayed last week in reporting on the Griffith Park and Catalina fires. Of course, these two disasters were more focused on a rather narrow area. But the 1994 earthquake, while it occurred over a considerably wider area, took place very early in the morning, giving the Times staff all day to come up with its report. The fires, on the other hand, reached their zenith in nighttime hours where edition deadlines were much closer in time.

Another thing that has changed since the earthquake is that the Times Web site is now a major and ever bigger factor in the Times presentation of the news, with hundreds of thousands of readers coming on line to find out what is going on hour by hour. The Times staff must constantly be filing and updating to make the Web report timely.

Altogether, it requires superb organization on the news desks, fast editing as well as writing capacities. to get out a successful report, and the Times seems to have excelled in everything last week.

Individual writers, Ashraf Khalil, Paul Pringle, Megan Garvey, Seema Mehta and Susannah Rosenblatt, among them, were the stars of the coverage, but many others , including several photographers, and of course editors, contributed to it. Altogether, it was a splendid effort.


Time magazine's special issue on the world's 100 most influential people was a considerable success, I thought, with a harder-headed choice than Time has been making in its recent Person-of-the-Year issues. This was an eclectic list and some of the individual short essays were excellent. About the only effort that fell short was Joel Stein's alternative list on the last page. This could have been more detailed and provocative. Time's leading article in the "Leaders & Revolutionaries" section, interestingly enough, was Sen. Barack Obama, whose 2008 presidential campaign has quickly been developing stature. Time, however, like many of the Eastern press, skipped listing one of the most important Eastern and Republican candidates for President, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who often gets short shrift from the media, but may end up President. Time included Osama bin Laden in its list of most influential revolutionaries, although, always politically correct, its essay on him was shorter and less interesting than many others. It's a shame. They could have invited him to their gala New York dinner honoring the 100, and his host could have been Michael Duffy, the Time writer who urged that we throw in the towel to him, and who was my "mistaken journalist of the year."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your naivete re political realities is astonishing, particularly your rosy view that Rudy G. "could be the next president." Quite apart from the fact that man is physically unattractive and is married for the third time to social climbing home wreacking goldigger who will surely inspire no love from the bumble thumpers who constitute the GOP's base, Rudy, the so-called hero of 9/ll, is partly responsible for the current illnesses and deaths of workers he rushed to clean up the lower Manhattan business district near ground zero without accurately determining the toxic levels of air pollution. Add to that his unsavory connections to mob affiliated Bernie Kerick, who may be indicted shortly, and you have a candidate for a Grand Old Party of Losers who will bomb sooner rather than later.

5/13/2007 10:33 PM  

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