Media people

In praise of Dave Z

CoverLos Angeles magazine's RJ Smith takes notice of David Zahniser's run of noteworthy stories in the LA Weekly (and previously in the Daily Breeze) and pronounces him the top beat guy of the Villaraigosa era. "Dave Z, as he is known, is having a great run at a propitious moment: He is the best city hall reporter to emerge in years, and he arrives at a time when a lot more people are paying attention to city hall." We learn the Z Man is 38, lives near Smith in Echo Park, sometimes get the dry heaves before publishing a sensitive story like his scoop about Mayor Villaraigosa's dodgy Miami fundraising, and got into reporting by walking into the Claremont Courier looking for a summer job after Pomona College. Smith, a former Weekly staffer, makes the observation that Zahniser's coverage punctuates how the paper has changed: "Anyone who thinks the Weekly is a rubber stamp for Dem-labor politics probably also thinks the Westside is nothing but wealthy Hollywood liberals and probably hasn't been reading the Weekly."

He quotes the Daily News' Rick Orlov praising Zahniser and discussing how thin-skinned Villaraigosa can be about reporters' stories. There's also a slap at the Times team in City Hall:

For all the good reporting that Zahniser does for the liberal Weekly and Orlov for the Republican Daily News, the Times' city hall coverage is consistently flimsy. We have a mayor who is talked about at cocktail parties and in movie lines: It's a golden moment for illuminating the processes of power, and the Times is locked in its traditional, purely reactive mode...

Just imagine if the Times had four or five Rick Orlovs and Dave Z's. All of us who live here might understand how city hall works, the L.A. Times might even make more money, and a good newspaper would be a whole lot better.

Zahniser, incidentally, had a tickle from the Times but no job offer (and interest from the Daily News, which couldn't match his Copley salary) before jumping to the Weekly last year.

Also in the November issue: Dave Gardetta follows an 18-year-old starlet's ascent in Porn Valley, Steve Oney tells the story of the endangered Ennis House, Laurie Pike goes inside Forever 21 — plus reviews of Neal Gabler's Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Gore Vidal's Point to Point Navigation and Lillian Faderman's and Stuart Timmons' Gay L.A. The cover package compares UCLA and USC. None of it's on the web, of course. But the July issue still is....cringe.

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