One last look at the year just past, through the lens of the subjects and posts that LA Observed readers devoured, forwarded and talked about the most. In order, from one to ten:
The two guys on the left, Jim O'Shea and David Hiller, became editor and publisher of the Los Angeles Times in a putsch orchestrated at Tribune Tower. First out was publisher Jeff Johnson, who dared to tell Chicago's suits what they didn't want to hear. Editor Dean Baquet took the fall next, despite staff petitions, letters from business leaders and even t-shirts bearing his mug. O'Shea has had zero impact, but Hiller has called for more local coverage, ticked off Latinos, kibbitzed by email, carried a tune and became awed by Hollywood. LA Observed broke the news that he also is an active Republican Party donor. Now everyone is waiting for news of a sale, possibly to some combo of Eli Broad, David Geffen and Ron Burkle.
Photo: Randy Belice/Chicago Tribune
Anyone who didn't already believe that Los Angeles runs on immigrant labor got a wakeup call when the Gran Marcha hit downtown, followed by a massive May 1 rally on Wilshire Boulevard. They were possibly the two largest street protests ever in L.A. Spanish-language deejay-organizer Piolin became familiar even to English speakers and a national media figure. When students took to swarming on freeways, LAPD Chief Bratton quipped: "That's not free speech. That's insanity." For the May 1 rally, official Los Angeles was more prepared. Timing was delayed until after school hours and marchers were channeled along Wilshire to La Brea, where Mayor Villaraigosa waved an American flag for the cameras.
Photo: Mike Dornheim
The Dodgers slugged four home runs on seven pitches in an amazing September game that Sports Illustrated deemed the year's best. They fizzled in the playoffs, but the most clicked on items were Daily News beat reporter Tony Jackson losing the battle with jet lag in the Shea Stadium dugout and the return of Derek Lowe and Carolyn Hughes. Top traffic contenders at LA Observed last year too, this time the news came from Lowe's estranged wife. She revealed details of the pitcher's ADD and excessive drinking while with the Red Sox. Another thread for the season was fans' upset with Dodger Stadium.
Photo: Inside the Dodgers.com
L.A. Times writer Claire Hoffman got on the national media map with her West magazine piece on "Girls Gone Wild" mogul Joe Francis, but it wasn't easy. She got manhandled and screamed at by her subject — "that's when Francis' bodyguard physically separated us, escorting me to the edge of the parking lot, and when [Officer] Coary called for backup" — and he trashed her in interviews after the story developed legs. It turned out to be the most-clicked story ever on LATimes.com and prompted debates about whether Hoffman should have been pulled off the piece before it ran.
Photo: Claire Hoffman/L.A. Times
It's a little outside our usual geography, but this year's drama at the Santa Barbara News-Press became one of the saddest media stories of the year. Owner Wendy McCaw had a nice little paper, far better than its low circulation deserved, and a newsroom stocked with real pros who loved coming to work. Then McCaw, her boyfriend and their editorial page gofer got ticked off over coverage of the gofer's drunk driving arrest and stories that were too fair to their political enemies. When the dust settled, just about every experienced journalist on staff had resigned or been fired, those who remained had formed a union, the National Labor Relations Board had filed charges and McCaw had become a national symbol for unethical journalism. Other than that, everything's fine.
Photo: Associated Press
After the jump: Numbers 6 through 10...
Once New Times took possession of Village Voice Media, it was just a matter of time until changes started trickling down to the LA Weekly (and its sister OC Weekly.) First came some blending of film and arts coverage, then layoffs. Former editor Harold Meyerson departed the family with a blast at the new order, particularly unhappy that the Weekly rushed into print with a David Zahniser piece on the death of labor leader Miguel Contreras, a Meyerson pal. Editor Laurie Ochoa survived the transition, but New Times exec Michael Lacey did go over her head to axe the editor in charge of the paper's increasingly respected local news coverage and install controversial advocacy journalist Jill Stewart. For now, the jury is out.
The year began with Michael Hiltzik, the Los Angeles Times' top business columnist, filling a role as the paper's chief blogosphere defender. He snarkily engaged critics from the right such as Hugh Hewitt and Patterico and chided Bill Bradley and Mickey Kaus. Then in April, Patterico reported that Hiltzik had been using the pseudonyms Mikekoshi and Nofanofcablecos to post comments on various blogs attacking his critics and furtively promoting his own positions. Hiltzik's LAT blog was suspended that day, he lost his column, and now he's doing investigative stories in Sports.
KTLA found out that people who get up on New Year's Day to watch the Rose Parade like it kitschy and without commercials — and that when you mess with certain cherished Los Angeles traditions, bad PR may ensue. Station manager Vinnie Malcolm might have gotten off easier for dumping longtime co-host Stephanie Edwards to the grandstand if she hadn't remained gracious despite being soaked. LA Observed was deluged with complaints about Edwards' treatment, many with digs at holdover Bob Eubanks and new co-host Michaela Pereira. Edwards declined to take part in this year's parade coverage, leading to a new round of posts and cementing the #8 spot on the Most Clicked On list for 2006.
Screen grab: L.A. Times
Ever since Mayor Villaraigosa took office, hints were dropping that something was bound to happen at the fire department. Controller Laura Chick came out with a tough audit. Then the City Council approved a $2.7 million settlement with a black firefighter, Tennie Pierce, who was fed dog food by station colleagues. Outrage over the generosity of the deal grew when KFI's John & Ken flogged photos showing that Pierce had participated in many pranks in his day. But his case was less about pranks than about racism and intimidation in the firehouses, a problem that William Bamattre was supposed to solve when he was named chief eleven years earlier. Villaraigosa used to investigate workplace harassment for a living and takes it seriously, so Bamattre's career was ended.
UPDATED: Bernsen was acquitted on all charges in June 2007.
Roderick Bernsen parlayed an LAPD career, some of it in the Media Relations office, into a reporting gig at Fox 11 News. He did law enforcement stories and helicopter duty for several years until leaving in 2004 and landing briefly at KFI. Friends and colleagues were shocked when he was arrested on a cruise ship for allegedly coming on to two twelve-year-old boys. The case went federal, and Bernsen has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of abusive sexual contact.
Barry Munitz forced out at Getty
Commisson rules Devin Brown a bad shooting
South Central farmers evicted
Klimt paintings come to LACMA
UCLA student tasered in library
No more country at KZLA
Valley restaurant robberies
Gas hit $4 a gallon in Beverly Hills
Griffith Observatory returns to wide acclaim, but not total acclaim
King-Drew rescued and merged
Michael Richards' racist outburst
Kobe Bryant sinks 81 points