LA Weekly news editor Alan Mittelstaedt was mentioned only obliquely in departed columnist Harold Meyerson's email blast last night. Mittelstaedt writes the new L.A. Sniper column, which Meyerson called a symptom of New Times' unsophistication "in the Jill Stewart mode of reducing commentary to drive-by shootings." Now a Mittelstaedt email responds, defending the Miguel Contreras story:
You raise some good points, and we thought a great deal about them and others before we decided to publish this story.
We found, however, the mystery of Miguel's final hours, and the questions it raises about the performance of a crucial public institution -- the coroner's office -- too important to ignore. We found the conduct of the city's top leaders -- including Martin Ludlow, who was involved in an emotional confrontation at the hospital, as he demanded that the death certificate be signed on the spot -- too important to ignore. We found the questions raised about possible improper influence brought to bear on doctors, on coroner's investigators, on police -- too important to ignore.
Dave has been investigating the circumstances of Miguel's death for more than eight months, so you're a bit off to say that we rushed it into print this week. What gave it extra urgency, however, were two factors -- Supervisor Antonovich's letter to the coroner last week, asking why no autopsy had been done, and our worries that some of the top players might leak the story to the Times in an effort to spin it.
You certainly are free to disagree with our handling of this and any story, now or in the future. But please, don't play the New Times card here. We'll hear enough of that from the public in the days ahead. I was the main editor on the piece. I am an old-fashioned, hold-public-officials-feet-to-the-fire sort of guy. I've been that way for the past 27 years -- long before Mike Lacey became my ultimate boss -- ever since my first byline in November 1979 at a tiny desert weekly. This story is not a case of "gotcha journalism;" it serves a deeper purpose than to titillate. It raises all sorts of unanswered questions that suggest the coroner's office and other investigators did not do their jobs. This is an investigative story in the truest sense of the word.
I have great respect for you and your work, and we still love you. Please don't go out on such a sour note. And, come on, become a fan of L.A. Sniper.
Noted: Former Village Voice Media boss David Schneiderman, who stayed for awhile after New Times took over, resigned.