L.A. Times Travel Section Shows It Can Be Good
I would have written before this commending the articles by Jane Engle and Rosemary McClure in the Sept. 23 Times, had there not been so much news last week, in Burma, with the Ahmadinejad visit to the York and with publisher David Hiller's speaking appearance before the "Old Farts," the Times retired employees association, in Studio City.
But better late than never, so I want to express the highest compliments for the article Engle wrote comparing plane and train travel between European destinations, especially between London and the Continent, and the one McClure wrote on an attractive new bus service between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Both of these topics are of great interest to many readers of the Times, and both these articles were carefully done. A lot actual travel went into them, and the details revealed a good deal about the issues at hand -- how to make travel convenient and as inexpensive as possible.
Engle and McClure are not among the best known writers at the Times. They don't have the glorious assignments of Borzou Daragahi in the Middle East, Megan Stack, newly in Moscow, Kim Murphy in London and often Tehran, or Doyle McManus in Washington. But a newspaper must offer all kinds of coverage to its readers, and Engle and McClure certainly handle their respective assignments with distinction.
A good travel section is an important part of the paper, especially since Californians, like Israelis and Australians, are inveterate travelers, and we are always looking for ways to make travel pleasant and easy. Under the late Jerry Hulse, the travel section dealt well with destinations like Hawaii, pleasant travel experiences of all sorts. But it seldom dealt with the nitty-gritty of travel the way Engle and McClure did on Sept. 23.
So I want to take back some of my earlier statements about the Travel section being pap, and express good wishes for the future work of these two fine writers.
Two readers, James and Helene Shielly of Palm Desert, also were enthused about the Travel section and their brief letter printed yesterday showed it. "The Travel section," they wrote. "At long last, you got it right!"
Maybe Hiller should note that this letter came from readers who live more than 100 miles from Los Angeles. Before he withdraws the paper into the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area, as he talked about doing at the "Old Farts," he ought to consider how good it is to have readers elsewhere in California.
While I'm commending the travel stories in the Sept. 23 edition, I should also mention that two of the book reviews were particularly impressive in the Opinion section that same day. These were Heller McAlpin's review of the book, "Fire in the Blood," a novel written by the great French-Jewish author, Irene Nemtrovsky, who was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz in 1942, and the review by M.G. Lord of a revealing biography on Werner Von Braun, who did substantial work for the Nazis in World War II and then for the American space program after the war. Von Braun was a complex character, both good and evil, and was a model for the compulsively-Nazi scientist in the epic film, "Dr. Strangelove," one of the best ever done about the Cold War.
A Burmese dissident group based in Norway said today that it has information that the death toll in last week's crackdown on Buddhist monks and other pro-democracy demonstrators in Burma was 138, with 6,000 persons, including hundreds of monks, detained. But Hla Win, a Burmese general who defected and is seeking foreign asylum rather than participate in the crackdown, said he understood several thousands had been killed. Hundreds of children were reported abandoned on the Thai border in another report.
Meanwhile, there are signs that there could be further developments in the drama. The junta, which has utterly failed to adequately manage either the country's politics or its economy, has come under severe pressure, and opposition reports say that the family of the head of the junta, Than Swhe, has arrived in Singapore under circumstances which were not immediately clear. Meanwhile, so far, Shwe has failed to meet with the UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, although the junta did agree to a meeting between Gambari and the Novel laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the legally-elected leader of Burma who has never been permitted to assume her duties.
In 1988, the last time an uprising occurred against the junta, it stayed in power, but it changed heads. At 74, perhaps Shwe could choose to retire.