Tale of two L.A.'s

BoyarskyOur blogger-columnist Bill Boyarsky covered a march Downtown on Friday by 700-1,000 janitors and renters of the slum housing around MacArthur Park. It got him thinking about the two (or more) Los Angeles realities, and he used the moment to post that those who think of the old Los Angeles Times as somehow more devoted to covering the city should think again. Warning: I'm mentioned from a previous life.

The idea of two L.A.s, one affluent the other struggling, is not new. Long before Sen. John Edwards built a presidential campaign on the concept of “Two Americas,” LA Observed’s Kevin Roderick proposed a series for the Los Angeles Times on Two L.A.s, one affluent the other poor.

Roderick was a reporter in the Times City-County Bureau in the ‘80s when he came up with the project. I, the bureau chief, thought it was a great idea. Roderick did preliminary interviews and other research and wrote a detailed memo laying out the concept. The City-County Bureau reporters, who had been digging into the social, economic and racial forces that were dividing Los Angeles, would collaborate on the project.

Our bosses quickly rejected Roderick’s idea. In fact, I was urged to shift our coverage to issues affecting the middle class. Such bad decisions should be noted by those mourning the long passed “great old days” at the Times. A lot of those days were not so great.

Life went on. The city was ripped apart by the 1992 riot, and we finally got around to reporting on Two L.A.s

I thought of that as I joined the marchers gathering at the headquarters of Service Employees Local 1877, which is organizing the Justice for Janitors campaign for better wages and working conditions.

Boyarsky, author of the recent book on California political giant Jesse Unruh, is coming to the end of his tenure on the city Ethics Commission and intends to write more often (and more freely) about City Hall and politics for LA Observed. He also contributes columns to Truthdig and the Jewish Journal.

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