Fired editor's email to his (ex)writers

Alan Mittelstaedt sent his freelancers the news LAO reported yesterday — that he was canned by CityBeat. Under the subject line "Fired--again!," it contains the details that he got the word in the alley behind the CityBeat offices on Wilshire [the historically designated Stiles O. Clements-designed Security Bank building near La Brea - ed.] and that many CityBeat cover stories are written by college interns. He also includes praise for the previously fired CityBeat editor who hired him, Steve Appleford.

Dear Writers, Advisers, Friends and Others:

Thank you all for your wonderful work during a wild, crazy and often rewarding ride that began for me at CityBeat last July 17.

When the scrappy paper is relaunched in its new and fresh orbit June 12, I will not be on board. Rebecca gave me the bad news Friday during a cigarette break in the alley outside our Wilshire Boulevard office; in this case, it was the executioner who smoked while I watched the standing-room-only 720 bus and wondered when and where I'll get another chance to slam Henry Waxman. By the way, Rebecca handled my firing with grace. She said her decision had nothing to do with my work, which she praised, and she asked me to continue writing L.A. Sniper, which I see as only a remote possibility at CityBeat.

Continued after the jump. Rebecca is CityBeat's acting editor, Rebecca Schoenkopf.

For you writers, I encourage you to remain part of the show and to help in any way you can. Rebecca faces the unenviable job of taming and talking sense to a local branch of the same unrelenting, misguided capitalist forces threatening journalism everywhere.

But this note is about you and me and our sky-high goals and modest accomplishments doing journalism that matters, without regard to what should be the irrelevant trio of bottom lines, advertisers and the whims of publishing company owners.

A special place in my heart and mind will always be there for CityBeat's founding editor Steve Appleford, who hired me and set me loose to try to turn this town upside down. Steve is a wise man and a smart editor with the demeanor of a saint; yes, he and I are very different. But we embraced the same mission: CityBeat must pursue week after week the duplicitous, self-serving politicians who too often put their own interests ahead of the public's, and spotlight those community leaders who are fighting to improve Los Angeles. We made our top priorities transportation, air quality and increased coverage of city and county government. We were outstaffed by the dailies, but we still carved out a spot to be heard above the rest. On good weeks, we had an additional full page for news and produced cover packages on the subway, the mayor and city politics.

In our 10 months working together, we achieved some measure of success in large part because of the untiring efforts of a legion of excellent interns and outstanding freelancers and columnists.

The entire world should know that interns wrote some of our best cover stories. Greg Katz, now a staff writer at the Daily Journal, wrote terrific pieces on the misguided forces out to derail the Expo Line, and kept the heat on City Hall with a slew of report cards and full-page 3rd Degree interviews. Ashley Archibald took L.A. Unified to task for destroying an Echo Park neighborhood to make room for an unneeded school. Matt Mundy examined the gaping holes in the county's general relief system. Hanna Ingber Win came to the defense of innocent people snared by offensive sex offender notification laws. Emma Gallegos took a hard look at the mayor's promises to clean up the ports. This solid journalism brought attention to important issues. We even explored the evils of Proposition 13 in a cover package out together by that Katz fellow. (Forgive me for listing only some of our projects.)

Our immensely talented interns from UCLA, USC, Cal State Fullerton and elsewhere produced the same level of top-notch work as some of the veteran freelancers who wrote powerful cover stories. Jeffrey Anderson put D.A. Steve Cooley under the microscope for failing to nail the bad guys running amok in the troubled vortex of corrupt Southeast L.A. Cities. Annette Stark broke new ground with her examination of gang and race-related violence. Environmental guru Bill Kelly wrote one of the first stories exposing the fallacy of ethanol as a successful gasoline substitute. And columnist Andrew Gumbel, already a mainstay at the paper when I arrived, continued with his superb analysis on local and national topics.

Our work remains unfinished. The mission that Appleford and I talked about for two hours last July, and continued to strategize about on the day of his unceremonious firing in March, must not be set adrift by a downturn in the advertising market or unmet financial goals. Our hard-hitting journalism about the failings and deceptions throughout the halls of power must continue somehow, somewhere.

Enough of this. Now is a good time to pause and look back over the the past and celebrate. Please set aside Saturday night, June 7 and show up for "Al's Semi-Annual Fired Party." It will be at my house. Details to come. And, of course, David Nahai and his family are invited. (For help deciphering the Nahai reference, see this week's L.A. Sniper: "The DWP's King,"

Thanks for everything,


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