Defensive about Britney *

Three L.A. Times editors go online to defend the paper's use of three reporters to cover Ms. Spears' latest public meltdown.

"If we had wanted simply to report the facts of the custody case, one reporter could have done that. But the goal in this case was to do more -- to report on the aggressive nature of the photographic pursuit of Spears, what that says about how the celebrity industry is changing and the impact of those changes." [California Editor David Lauter]

"We wouldn't have put three reporters on a story just about her custody case -- which is sad, but similar to hundreds of others. What made this especially newsworthy is the role of paparazzi in L.A. -- it's big business here and it affects people; if you live in L.A., you see it. Also, this standoff represented something new in this relationship between celebrities and the celebrity press." [Shelby Grad, editor of the story in question]

"We are different from the people who follow her 24/7. We don't camp outside her house. It happened here in L.A., it involved law enforcement and the courts -- it was a news story." [Megan Garvey, assignment editor]

Lauter adds: "The goal is to hold a mirror up to daily life in all its splendid diversity. The passing circus is part of that life, particularly here in Southern California, where the whirl of celebrity is very much a part of the fabric. That circus is as much a legitimate subject for coverage as the Dodgers or the Lakers, which our Sports section covers routinely without anyone worrying that they contribute to the 'dumbing down' of America."

* Pursuing the question: Jon Weisman and his commenters at Dodger Thoughts ponder Is coverage of the likes of Britney Spears any more frivolous than coverage of the Dodgers?

AP's news of Britney
Britney an official AP priority

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