It's not unusual for someone to claim that a newspaper misinformed them. It is quite unusual, though, for the complaint to come from a Los Angeles Times contributor — about the paper that commissioned him to write a piece on Skid Row gentrification that led the July 30 Current section. Jon Regardie on the front page of the Downtown News has the story of Tom Slater, a lecturer in urban studies at Britain's University of Bristol, who has apologized for writing that the Central City East Association "literally swept and hosed [the homeless] out of their makeshift encampments" downtown. In emails to CCEA head Estela Lopez, Slater blamed Current editors for sending him errant information.
"You and your organisation have every reason to be angry. The Times completely misinformed me about what had happened with regard to the street cleaning - I was led to believe by the newspaper that "homeless people were literally swept and hosed out of their makeshift encampments", and I was asked to write an article situating these events within the broader context of gentrification. I was mortified to learn that sentence was factually inaccurate, and would like to apologise for this error. My mistake was that I trusted a respected newspaper; I should have checked the facts."
Lopez responded, thanking Slater and offering some context for the current state of Skid Row and describing CCEA's efforts in the neighborhood. Slater wrote back, and included the lines (again unedited):
"Thank you for your reply. Again, I am so sorry that I was unwittingly involved in misrepresenting your organisation. I am upset with the Los Angeles Times for putting me in this position, and they have refused to admit their error in public, which is disappointing."
Regardie talked to Current editor Nick Goldberg about it:
"It was a mistake," he said by phone. "As soon as it appeared in the paper we realized it was a mistake. We were very sorry to have done it. We ran a correction and we ran a letter about the subject. We feel very bad for having misrepresented what happened. The error came about because of a misreading of the story the Times had printed by Cara Mia DiMassa. I think that the error was the Times' fault - not Tom's. The information came from us."
Brady Westwater, president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, has posted several critiques of the Times story on his blog and reacts strongly at LA Cowboy to the Downtown News story: "So the Los Angeles Times lied to him - and then refused to admit in public that they had lied to him with false information! So I guess there is no honor among thieves - or lying journalists."