L.A. Times media critic David Shaw was interviewed this week by JournalismJobs.com and had a few things to say about the paper where he has written for more than 30 years.
JournalismJobs.com: How do you rate the L.A. Times' coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger so far? Have the media been soft on him because he's a celebrity?
David Shaw: No. Given the fact that we've had thousands of people cancel their subscriptions, none of them as far as I know canceled because they thought we were too soft on him -- it was quite the opposite. I think he was too smart for the media. He used the media. He used his celebrity. When is the last time a candidate for governor -- even before the election -- went one-on-one with Jennings, Brokaw, Oprah, Larry King, O'Reilly, and on the covers of Time and Newsweek. He didn't have to deal with regular press -- he got all he wanted.
JournalismJobs.com: Has the Los Angeles Times become a better paper since the Tribune Company acquired it in 2000 and John Carroll took over?
David Shaw: I think the L.A. Times under John Carroll, Dean Baquet, features editors John Montorio and Rick Flaste and publisher John Puerner is certainly a better paper than it was under Mark Willes, Kathryn Downing and Michael Parks -- no question about it.
JournalismJobs.com: In what ways has it gotten better?
David Shaw: The features sections in particular are substantially better than it used to be. Our Hollywood coverage is generally written better. The food section is substantially better. We've done an excellent job covering the major stories, whether it was the recall election or the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reorganization of all California news into a California section and not pretending to be simply a Los Angeles paper. Getting rid of some of the marginal community newspapers that we were using less experienced reporters on and potentially undermining our brand was a good idea. The paper is more design-conscious and looks better.
JournalismJobs.com: Has The Times recovered from its breach of journalistic ethics brought on by the Staples Center controversy?
David Shaw: It was certainly and understandably damaging to the reputation of The Times, it was not damaging to the journalists of The Times. The fact is, unlike Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass, there was no corruption of the journalism. The reporters and editors who put out that one special section of the magazine had no idea that the business side had made this deal that split profits with the Staples Center. They wrote, edited and published the section exactly as they would have done it had they not been a part of it. But it's damaged the reputation of the paper.