Taking stock of Los Angeles

Marc Haefele has some praise and some criticism for Los Angeles Magazine and editor Kit Rachlis in the cover story at this week's CityBeat. Samples:

Los Angeles weighs like two quarter-pounder patties, has more pages than an average Raymond Chandler novel, comes on slick paper, and is found in every Caucasian hair salon in the city – meaning many of us wouldn’t read it regularly if we never got our hair cut. Los Angeles is 48 years old, the same age as a long-in-the-tooth Gen Xer, and it is national paterfamilias among its city service-magazine kind....

There are islands of good writing, some not-so-good writing and sometimes some spectacular writing sparingly spread among L.A. layouts. Along with all the spectacular pimped-out watches that can cost the same as a pimped-out Benz....Things are certainly good at Los Angeles, but they’ve been better. The magazine now has a circulation of 150,000, down from over 180,000 in its ’70s-’80s heyday, and it is now roughly half its onetime 480-plus-page size.


It’s been 20 years since Rachlis, a product of Yale and Massachusetts’s Middlesex Academy, left the Village Voice to take over L.A. Weekly, which, after a decade of success had by 1988 lost its credibility. Under Rachlis, the paper became better than ever. As well as, some critics said, just a bit too moderate, too uncontroversial – although he’s still proud of having put Mapplethorpe’s Piss Christ on the Weekly’s cover – and ultimately, this was a disputatious trait in the nation’s flashiest alt weekly. But if he eventually fell out with his Weekly superior, publisher Mike Sigman (who says, “I’d handle it differently now”), he retained the loyalty of his writers. After he was pushed out in 1993, a clutch of disciples left with him....After seven years at the Times, Rachlis came to an ailing Los Angeles, which had seen seven editors in five years. He’s been there ever since – the second-longest editorial tenure in the magazine’s history....

What seems most to be lacking in the Los Angeles of today is the excitement of journalistic immediacy, going after a story rather than a personality. This is the Macro part of what’s been called “the most risky, passionate profession of the world.” Large issues, involving big trends, multiple topics, fatal cultural and human failings – something depicting the collapse of the Hahn administration, say. One does not live by profiles alone. Where is the evil, the grit, the dark Heart of the City? I ask Rachlis about this and he proudly talks of a previous in-depth piece on Eli Broad. A profile.

Haefele liked Shawn Hubler's interview with Villaraigosa squeeze Mirthala Salinas ("but it came seven months after the crisis") and my story on City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo ("but that was four years ago.") [Touché, but it was actually last year.] There's also some nice history of the magazine.

In L.A. Magazine this month

More by Kevin Roderick:
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