A remarkable editorial in this morning's Daily News admits the paper got used in the news story earlier this week about DWP chief David Nahai offering up data on his home water and power use.
Nahai's offer to the Daily News was nothing more than a clever pre-emptive strike against another reporter he considered a bother. For weeks Nahai had resisted requests from independent journalist, blogger and all-around muckraker Alan Mittelstaedt to turn over his water bills. It was a reasonable request. The man who was resurrecting the water police and portraying himself as a conservationist ought to be willing to be an example.
Nahai was annoyed by the request and the persistence of this journalist, and knew he would have to give up his wasting ways sooner or later. So he used a tactic common to clever public figures: He took his story elsewhere. Hah. Take that nosy Nelson!
Politicians, celebrities and other powerful people have been playing games like this ever since there was a press to play with. It's unfortunate, and the public likely has little idea of the manipulation that goes on behind the scenes every day just to get public officials to grudgingly provide important information.
I can't quite tap the well of meanspiritedness that would be necessary for a full critique of the flailing L.A. CityBeat, but I want to point out that this week's cover story on the credit crisis is one of the deeply flawed pieces that Jay Levin secretly authorized during his troubled stint as a consultant with the paper earlier this year. Then-editor Steve Appleford and I killed the story in March for several reasons, led by its total lack of any local reporting or analysis. Much of the information, including a scene with students at Rochester Institute of Technology, appears to be lifted from the author's 2006 documentary. So, at best, it's mostly stale material regurgitated as a cover story because the paper was too cheap to cut its losses and pay the sad sum of $500 promised to the author. It's too bad that Danny Schechter, a talented New York journalist, got caught up in this. By the way, I still predict the paper will close within six months.
In fairness, he didn't leave CityBeat willingly. As for the newly cheaper (and Alan-less) CityBeat, outside of present staffers I've yet to hear a good word about the revamped mix — and I've received several comments noting its typographic similarity to the Weekly.