Thursday, August 09, 2007

L.A. Times Looks Very Good Beside Eureka Paper

There is nothing that convinces you more that the L.A. Times remains a very good newspaper than reading the Eureka Times Standard for a few days, as I did on my recent trip. It's always enlightening to start reading Times back issues after you've been away, subject to the really low standards at most other papers.

This comparison struck me last night as I read Times issues for the first two days I'd been away -- for July 24 and 25. These weekday papers were filled with significant news, well written and well-presented. (It may also be that Times weekday papers have grown better than the Sunday paper, which has recently suffered more from features removed, such as TV Guide, West magazine (most weeks) and a separate Opinion and Book Review, now jammed together and truncated.

There were several comprehensive stories in the July 24-25 Times issues that were enough to convince you that under the often lobby-dominated Schwarzenegger Administration and the present Legislature, California has sunk into quite a crisis. The state is growing so fast it is bursting at the seams and government at all levels is unable to keep up.

First and foremost was the lead story July 24 by Nancy Vogel reporting that two federal judges had called the latest state efforts to control overcrowding in the state's prison system insufficient and ordered creation of a three-judge panel to consider capping California's prison population. This could entail a broad revision of the sentencing system and/or early prisoner releases. The judges specifically found that a $7.4 billion prison reform package adopted by the Legislature
and Schwarzenegger in the spring could actually worsen present conditions, because it would add prison beds without adding staff. At present, Vogel's story reported, the prison system holds 173,000 inmates, 17,000 of them in gymnasiums and a small number of prisoners have actually been moved to prisons outside the state.

(The Times also reported in these papers, at length, on the continuing budgetary crisis in the Legislature. Years after the Recall election that removed Gov. Gray Davis, California, under Schwarzenegger, has not resolved its budget shortfalls. The prospect now is for cutbacks in transportation projects and improper diversions of bonds voted by the electorate).

Also, I was impressed by a Page 1 story July 24 by Sharon Bernstein about a series of zoning proposals that could allow 250-square-foot apartments in Los Angeles. Bernstein's story charitably did not compare these with the Black Hole of Calcutta.

A lead editorial, meanwhile, raised questions about the notoriously bad Los Angeles County Counsel's office and its new policy of not revealing the reasons for huge settlements paid the victims of police and government misconduct. And on the Op Ed page was an article by Douglas Ring and Diane Donaghue warning that new high-rise apartment building in downtown Los Angeles threatens to make the downtown area "a gilded ghetto." (Ring has been a lobbyist and developer who has not always had the public interest at heart, but, still, the piece was thought provoking).

The July 25 issue at long last moved the mortgage crisis to Page 1, where it should have been long before, and should still be more frequently, with a report that foreclosures in California in the second quarter of the year had soared 799% higher than last year, to 17,408, largely because of dramatic increases in the rates being charged under adjustable mortgages. The story by David Streitfeld listed the figures for six Southland counties specifically and was a followup to an earlier Business section story by Tom Petruno warning that the mortgage crisis was spreading to the stock market and the full economy.

I also was impressed in the same issue with a column by Ron Brownstein on Rudolph Giuliani broaching new concepts of federalism in his presidential campaign, by an excellent review of a Las Vegas Italian restaurant, B&B, in the Venetian Hotel, by Irene Virbila, the Times' restaurant critic, and by the Page 1 account byJulia Damianova and Tracy Wilkinson from Sofia, Bulgaria, on the return of Bulgarian nurses from an eight-year-long cruel imprisonment in Libya on apparently spurious charges that they had spread AIDS among their patients.

Having been highly critical of cutbacks at the Times, it is only fair that the paper also be complimented for continuing to perform well in many areas. The L.A. Times for those two days was quite a bit more interesting than the New York Times for the same days.



Anonymous Karen Street said...

My main experience of the LA Times comes from articles people cut out and send me. There was an excellent series on oceans a year+ ago. But then there was the series on the effect of waste left over from uranium mining on Indian land, with stories of people dying from it years later.

My point is irrelevant to the poor people who became sick, and those who died, but science writers and editors should both be able to distinguish symptoms of arsenic poisoning from those of radioactivity.

I don't know if arsenic was used at one time as part of the uranium mining process, it is not mentioned in a report from The Uranium Institute, Waste Management in the Uranium Mining Industry, but arsenic is sometimes found in the same locations as uranium. Or was there other mining in this area, where arsenic was used?

I don't know, but my sense was that neither did the writer or editor involved in a four-series.

On the other side of the paper, there was a no to nukes editorial, advocating amazing numbers of new coal power plants. CA can't even build new coal power plants, so the editorial page came out in favor of roasting the world with energy sources we can't even use.

8/13/2007 9:22 AM  

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