Critiquing L.A. Times coverage of child deaths

The Times' county beat reporter, Garret Therolf, has been covering the troubled Department of Children and Family Services, including stories saying that the number of child deaths is rising. But there's an ever-louder chorus of complaints about his coverage from people in the field. Most notably this week has been Daniel Heimpel, a former LA Weekly writer who now heads a non-profit, Fostering Media Connections. He took the step of re-reporting some of Therolf's stories, and concluded that the "Los Angeles Times' reckless coverage of child deaths threatens the very children we trust it intends to protect." Celeste Fremon, another reporter with experience on the DCFS beat, says that "Heimpel’s research and reporting-on-the-reporting—including re-interviewing people quoted by the Times—is much too solid and detailed to ignore." Some more links and observations.

Heimpel: "The Times' myopic, misleading and reckless reporting has sparked a misinformed panic, posing a very real threat to many of Los Angeles' most vulnerable children. And on a grander scale, if this incomplete coverage is unmatched by sober analysis, it threatens the very reforms that have helped so many foster children up to this point."

Richard Wexler, director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform: "Obviously, the system is in chaos, though the primary reason for that is the foster-care panic triggered by Therolf’s sloppy reporting."

Fremon at Witness LA: "Unfortunately, according to a number of sources and experts, many of Therolf’s supporting facts range from very fuzzy to downright inaccurate."

I haven't seen the Times editors or Readers Representative (or Therolf) directly address the allegations as yet.

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