LA Times editor gets all serious: 'How could truth become so devalued?'

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A new Davan

davan-note-latfob2017.jpgLos Angeles Times editor-publisher Davan Maharaj used his address at Friday night's Times Book Prizes as a "call to arms" against threats to facts, truth and the written word posed by "the current political, social and cultural environment" — comparing today to the 1950s. He never mentioned Donald Trump but set up his remarks by warning the audience that he was about to get serious and "I’ll try not to go all Meryl Streep on you." Here's some of what he said, from the LAT's own transcript.

I believe that the current political, social and cultural environment in this country presents a challenge to all of us — as writers, as journalists, as purveyors of truth.

For today, we find that the written word — the cornerstone of our ambitions, our hopes and our dreams — is under siege.

How did it become possible that facts could not only be disputed, but manipulated, bent and maligned?

How could truth — our common ground for debate, dissent and accord — become so devalued?

How could the most revered institutions of our country — institutions that our founding fathers committed themselves to securing — become the object of such contempt?

After more than 35 years in journalism, I could never have imagined that one day I would be standing here, standing up for the core values of our profession as editors and writers, and the vital importance of truth.

Perhaps like many of you, I had believed that progress was inevitable.

We had elected our first African American president. The Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriage. We even had a smash-hit rap musical about Alexander Hamilton on Broadway.

Now we see — to our dismay — that we are in a different era, where we must reexamine all that we held to be self-evident.

We live in the age of trolls, sowing discord and spreading lies. “Alternative facts” inspire acts of hate and retribution. Allegations of “fake news” threaten to undermine what we have fought for. Science itself is under attack.

Such hostility is a threat not just to journalists and writers and editors like us. It is a threat to anyone who trusts us, who turns to us for help in understanding the world.

He went on to say that it's up to the Times (and other media presumably) to tell the stories of "people who are hated and ignored simply because no one has heard what they have to say," citing Dreamers, transgender people, a hijab-wearing Latina Muslim, migrant workers and others — "Their struggles must be our call to arms — to be their voice, their champions and advocates."

It's a new tone of activism from Maharaj, and follows by just a couple of weeks his editorial page's bold six-part series calling out Trump as a dishonest and dangerous liar who "has made himself the stooge...for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story." john-lewis-latfobcoverage.jpgJust in January, the paper's editors had warned staffers not to take part in the women's marches, decreeing that "we are all obliged to refrain from public expressions of our personal political views, in order to safeguard The Times’ objectivity in fact as well as appearance." Not sure how all this squares, but I suspect critics of the Times from the right will see more ammunition in Maharaj's remarks. Also maybe from this: The LAT website leads its photo coverage of the weekend book festival with a nice portrait of Trump critic Rep. John Lewis (above), whose new book was up for a prize, and the official book festival account tweeted this:

Speaking of the LAT Book Prizes

Winners on Friday night included Wesley Lowery, the Washington Post (and former LAT) reporter for "They Can’t Kill Us All,” a deep look at shootings of black men by police and protests cuch as those by Black Lives Matter; "An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873," by UCLA history professor Benjamin Madley; and Rueben Martinez, founder of the Santa Ana bookstore Libreria Martinez Books and Art Gallery that is now part of Chapman University in Orange County. Full list of winners.

The Times is saying 150,000 people attended the Festival of Books this year. I don't know about that, but the crowds were definitely good sized. A media tweet:

Media transitions

lauren-osen-twitter.jpgBarbara Davidson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Los Angeles Times, is leaving the staff to freelance. Her last day is April 28. "I love the Los Angeles Times but it's time for me to shake things up," she posts on Facebook... Lauren Osen (right), the senior producer for KPCC's "Airtalk," is leaving the station and public radio for Apple and the podcasting world. Larry Mantle sends her off... Jacob Margolis is the new science reporter for KPCC. Sanden Totten is now with the Brains On podcast and the new Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World... And at KCRW, managing producer Jolie Myers is leaving Press Play for "All Things Considered" at NPR in Washington. Madeleine Brand did a little goodbye at the end of Friday's show... Jenny Hamel is now a reporter at KCRW... Washington Post political reporter Robert Costa is Gwen Ifill's successor as moderator of "Washington Week in Review" on PBS... Pablo Pereira tweeted he has signed a new contract to remain with Fox 11 as the weeknight meteorologist... Former LAT business writer Shan Li left this month to travel the world and is posting on Instagram and her website, starting with Cape Town, South Africa... Kate O'Beirne, the former Washington editor of National Review, died on Sunday.

Media notes

You are not imagining how slow the LA Times website loads compared to other top news sites: a study finds the LAT weighs down its pages with more than double the ad tags of other top news sites. Those and all the needless videos make for a laborious user experience. Not that the Daily News or LA Weekly are any easier to visit. All of the websites need a remake... Noteworthy project from the Times: how wages went down in the SoCal construction industry... Early this month, the East Bay Times won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire deaths in Oakland. Last week, Digital First Media said the EBT copy desk would be merged with that of the Southern California News Group — down here in Monrovia. ... Reuters investigates locally: Across Los Angeles, toxic lead harms children in neighborhoods rich and poor... The LA Times editorial page endorsed Joe Bray-Ali over incumbent City Councilman Gil Cedillo in the 1st district runoff... How Michael Connelly brings 'Bosch' and LA to life, an interview with Lisa Fung at Amazon Prime Insider... The LA Times changed up its style and usage on LGBTQ people and adopts the singular "they" for those who choose that pronoun instead of he or she. Explained by the Readers' Rep... With news that Fox may bring back "The X Files," Fox 11's Mark Thompson quips: "Seems like a good time to bring me back. The series left a lot of unanswered questions about my character, Reporter #2."

April 29, 1992

This week will be 25 years since the riots that broke out in South Los Angeles and downtown, and spread to other cities and states, after the acquittal of the LAPD officers who took part in the illegal beating of black man Rodney King on Foothill Boulevard in Lake View Terrace. As a milestone anniversary, there is a lot of looking back going on.
• The LA Weekly already has done 10 pieces; the latest is a a first person by Ruben Castaneda, at the time a Washington Post reporter in Los Angeles.
• "LA Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later" is an A&E documentary by filmmaker John Singleton. The website includes a first-person piece by Sandy Banks, who was an LA Times reporter in 1992.
• The New York Times reviews John Ridley's "Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992."
From the Archives: NBC 4's TV coverage


• LA County’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in March, the lowest level in at least 30 years, state figures show. LA Business Journal

• Uber CEO Travis Kalanick grew up in Northridge and went to Patrick Henry Junior High and, briefly, UCLA. New York Times profile

• Surfas, the Culver City food and restaurant supply store, will be closing at its longtime National and Washington location at the end of June with a big sale. Negotiations are underway for a new Culver City address, but there's nothing final, the store says in a posted note. The current corner across from the Expo Line station is getting a new development.

• Site cleared for 17-Story tower at La Cienega/Jefferson station. Urbanize LA

• Bones belonging to an ancient camel and a mammoth or mastodon were found during excavation for the Purple Line subway station at LaBrea and Wilshire. The Source

• Granada Hills Charter High School won its sixth national Academic Decathlon championship in seven years. Daily News

• The story behind LA’s coolest looking gas station. Los Angeles Magazine

Selected tweets

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