LA Observed Notes: Shame on Disney, a runner writes and more

LEPPER-SOCIAL.jpgIn Culver City in 1963, Merry Lepper became the first woman to finish a U.S. marathon race.

Our occasional roundup of news and notes. I had to skip last week so there's a full load below. As always, between posts you can keep up with LA Observed on Twitter — now with 24,537 followers.

News at the top

• A lone American gunman from a nearby town killed 26 and wounded at least another 20 inside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They don't yet know why he destroyed so many families. NYT
• Republican Sen. Rand Paul has five rib fractures after an assault by his neighbor in Bowling Green, Kentucky. CNN
• Comes the darkness: ugh it's Pacific Standard Time again.

Shame on Disney

In the Sunday Los Angeles Times Calendar section devoted to holiday movies, the Disney films are missing. That's because, the paper says in an editor's note, Disney didn't let Times reviewers screen its movies because the company is upset about Times coverage of the financial relationship between the city of Anaheim and Disneyland. Sounds loony, I know, but there you go.

The annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section published by the Los Angeles Times typically includes features on movies from all major studios, reflecting the diversity of films Hollywood offers during the holidays, one of the busiest box-office periods of the year. This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public.

There was also no review on Friday of "Thor." LAT staffers have been blocked from Disney websites as well as access to stars and directors. The particular stories that bothered Disney, by Daniel Miller, looked at public subsidies of Disney properties and asked if Disney is paying its share in Anaheim. The company didn't have specific complaints about errors; it just didn't like the subject matter or the conclusion.

But so what. It's a story as old as the American press. Disney is trying to throw its corporate weight around to influence news coverage, and doing it by punishing the LAT. There's only one legitimate response to that by the Times — ignore the bullying tactics, cover Disney as hard as ever and review Disney products (or not) without the benefit of flacks or screenings or agreed-to schedules or any special access. If there are fewer authorized interviews arranged by Disney's PR army, readers aren't going to weep.

It's a big test of the news virgins who are the new editorial leadership of the Times, as Disney boss Bob Iger surely has calculated. New editor Lewis D'Vorkin has a record of working closely with marketers and advertisers and no known record yet of protecting newsrooms from outside influence. Publisher Ross Levinsohn is also an unknown quantity on protecting his paper's independence from unhappy advertisers. Studios aren't as big a spenders in the paper as they used to be, but Tronc, the LAT's parent, has hopes to leverage Times content on Hollywood around the world, so being cut off from popular Disney movies like "Star Wars" could hurt the bottom line. Of course, so could having it known that you bow to advertiser demands in coverage. I have a bad feeling we're going to see a rash of Disney movies show up in intrusive takeover ads on the LA Times home page.

Disney's take is that the corporation only cares about "journalistic standards" and just wants the LA Times to also. Lol.

We regularly work with news organizations around the world that we don’t always agree with, but in this instance the L.A. Times showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards. Despite our sharing numerous indisputable facts with the reporter, several editors, and the publisher over many months, the Times moved forward with a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda—so much so that the Orange County Register referred to the report as “a hit piece” with a “seemingly predetermined narrative.” We’ve had a long relationship with the L.A. Times, and we hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future.

Well, the Register did not call the Times series a hit piece. An op-ed piece by a local business leader did. An Orange County journalist (not at the Times) says on social media that Disney's public war against the Times "will just bring more readers to the LAT’s groundbreaking investigation of Anaheim subsidies to Disneyland." Already happening. It's a top read on the LA Times website. The Washington Post has a piece calling out Iger for the blacklisting — the same Bob Iger who supports liberal candidates, claims to be a role model and whose wife runs the journalism school at USC. A bad look, indeed.

LAT's Horsey apologizes to Sarah Huckabee Sanders

huckabee-sanders-horsey.jpgHorsey's depiction of Sanders.

Los Angeles Times opinion columnist-cartoonist David Horsey opened his piece on Sanders last week by comparing the press secretary's look to the style of women that he thinks Donald Trump and Roger Ailes find attractive. "By comparison, Sanders looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids' games," Horsey wrote in part. "Rather than the fake eyelashes and formal dresses she puts on for news briefings, Sanders seems as if she'd be more comfortable in sweats and running shoes.... Yet, even if Trump privately wishes he had a supermodel for a press secretary, he is lucky to have Sanders."

After a couple of days of criticism, Horsey revised his lede and added a personal note.

I want to apologize to Times readers — and to Sarah Huckabee Sanders — for a description that was insensitive and failed to meet the standards of our newspaper. It also failed to meet the expectations I have for myself. It surely won’t be my last mistake, but this particular error will be scrupulously avoided in my future commentaries. I’ve removed the offending description.

Unclear if the deletion was his idea or an editor's (or whether an editor sees Horsey's Top of the Ticket columns before they go up on the web.) The Times did post this: "A description of Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the top of the original post did not meet Times standards. It has been removed." On Twitter, Horsey posted: "Having created a small firestorm with a rude comment about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I offer a sincere apology."

Hollywood's scandal that won't go away

The sexual harassment scandal that so far has exposed the sordid lives of Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey and others — and earned kudos for numerous victims for speaking out — looks far from over. We haven't seen enough heads roll at the studios or the talent agencies for the exorcism to be counted as truly far-reaching yet. Plus there's no doubt more revelations to come. Ronan Farrow hinted to CNN's Brian Stelter Sunday on "Reliable Sources" that he has more disclosures ahead. The NYPD is making noises about arresting Weinstein; the LAPD has an investigation going too. Hollywood wakes up every morning to check Twitter for the next shoe to drop.

At the New York Times, new gender editor Jessica Bennett writes about How the Weinstein Scandal Unleashed a Tsunami.

Meanwhile, NPR continues to excel with reporting on its own scandal: that the network allowed creepy behavior by news boss Michael Oreske to continue despite multiple reports. He's out now, but NPR media reporter David Folkenflik says tensions are high in the newsroom over how CEO Jarl Mohn is handling the crisis. "I've let you down," Mohn said at a Friday staff meeting. "I should have acted sooner and I should have acted more forcefully." Mohn followed up with a Saturday night memo that pledged more action. Folkenflik has reported that nine women say Oreskes treated them unprofessionally.

Also: Hamilton Fish, president and publisher of The New Republic, resigned Friday "following allegations that he had mistreated female employees." HuffPost

Should read: "Marketplace" host Lizzie O'Leary says the sexual misbehavior by men that she shrugged off as a young journalist horrifies her now.

I’ve covered everything from local zoning meetings to the White House. And every step of the way, I’ve had to carve extra time and effort out of my work to sidestep this recurring gray area. None of the individual instances quite constituted harassment, but all of them were exhausting to navigate. And looking back, I can’t believe what I put up with....

I don’t know how to change centuries of conditioning. How to make men see women as peers. To let us just do our jobs. But maybe acknowledging that we live in a culture that doesn’t do that, is a start.

It's how she says it:

How about try this: more women

Hollywood is talking about reforms like making sure there are no more one-on-one casting meetings in hotel rooms and professionalizing other dicey industry practices. That's all great, it needs to happen. But they could make everybody safer and everything more professional just by bringing more women up to the decision making level. On everything.

gerwig-ronan-a24.jpgThat would, I suspect, also help fix the content problem. So many movies are tired and pointless. We saw Greta Gerwig's new coming-of-age Sacramento paean "Lady Bird," starring Saoirse Ronan with Tracy Letts and Laurie Metcalf, at the Arclight on Saturday, and it wasn't tired or predictable. It was funny in a fresh way. The fresh breeze blowing through the theater felt...female. More of that, please. Gerwig was profiled in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, and Vanity Fair has a piece on How Joan Didion Shaped the World of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.

Jennifer Lawrence hosting "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Thursday also had that it's not another guy behind a desk feeling. Fresh monologue jokes, and while I could have done without the Kim Kardashian fawning, I loved when Lawrence went out on Hollywood Boulevard to quiz tourists about Jennifer Lawrence. More like that, please.

Media notes

shepherds-amos-chapel.jpgImpressive photos: The shepherds of Georgia's Tusheti Mountains by Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple at The Atlantic website.

Remember the Panama Papers? Now the Paradise Papers, from the same global consortium of journalists including the New York Times, reports on 13.4 million leaked documents shedding light on the "trillions of dollars that move through offshore tax havens." The papers focus on a Bermuda law firm Appleby. NYT story... Host Brian Stelter and White House aide Kellyanne Conway parried Sunday on CNN's Reliable Sources... The Daily Caller cancelled its embarrassing plan to give a weekly column to right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos — and fired the editor who offered it to him... At least 195 web addresses belonging to Donald Trump, his family or his business empire were hijacked by hackers possibly operating out of Russia four years ago, Associated Press reports.

Moves: New York Times veteran Gretchen Morgenson, winner of three Loeb Awards for her business reporting, is jumping to the Wall Street Journal as "senior special writer" on the investigations team. Read the memo... Politico White House reporter Josh Dawsey has jumped to the Washington Post... In case you missed it last week, big cuts at Conde Nast magazines include the print edition of Teen Vogue.

Around the LAT: The LA Times newsroom push to align with the News Guild escalated recently when more than 40 staffers went public as backers of the union drive. That's been followed by a full-court press on Twitter to attract visible support around the country, paired with new paid subscriptions to the Times. Organizers Matt Pearce (national reporter), Kristina Bui (copy editor) and Anthony Pesce (data analyst) said in a web interview that the first overture to the News Guild was last December.

Jonathan Gold put Vespertine in the #1 spot in his new LA Times list of 101 best restaurants in the Los Angeles region. "Let us address the spaceship in the docking port here — not everybody is going to be ecstatic that we are naming Vespertine the best restaurant in Los Angeles. The entire experience at Vespertine, from the lack of right angles in the dining room, to the throbbing four-note soundtrack, to the overwhelming abstraction of the food, to the stunning cost of dinner, is going to drive many of you insane." In a later interview with himself, Gold expressed mixed feelings and mentioned a bunch more restaurants hoping to mollify his critics. Meanwhile, New York Times critic Pete Wells reported on his own visit to Culver City to review Vespertine. Sample: "Since it opened here in July, its $250 tasting menus (tax and service charge not included) have left people perplexed, impressed, annoyed or all three."

Misc: A New York Times story on art galleries refers to the "Glendale section of Los Angeles." Kinda like the New Rochelle or Newark sections of NYC?... The LAPD is getting into the podcast era, per PIO Josh Rubenstein... USC Annenberg will launch a new class this spring "developed from VICELAND’s Emmy-nominated documentary series WOMAN with Gloria Steinem. Using the documentary as a central theme, the students will learn both how the media portrays gender and how to create their own media for social change."... Men on the air at KTLA are not supposed to wear brown suits, as morning personality Sam Rubin discusses with actor Steve Carell. Video... Rock photographer Neal Preston had a backstage pass to history and now has a new book...Future of Cities: Los Angeles and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West will unveil their first report, on the history of civic leadership in LA, on Nov. 16 at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes downtown.

Closure of LAist, Gothamist sites

While the archives of LAist and other Gothamist sites are back online, the fallout continues over the sudden closing of the sites by owner Joe Ricketts after his New York staffers voted to unionize. LAist editor Julia Wick told NPR's 'All Things Considered' that the sites were profitable and were closed for political rather than financial reasons. She described how she and the staff learned they were unemployed — at the same time as readers.... Wick took to Twitter to call Ricketts' action "retaliation." ... Former Gawkerist Hamilton Nolan writes in the NYT that Ricketts "destroyed his newsroom out of spite"... I was interviewed about the abrupt shut-down of LAist by KCRW and KPCC. From a former LAist editor:

New California newsletter coming

In Sept. 2016, New York Times web editor Mike McPhate — newly relocated in Davis, near Sacramento, as a reporter — launched the NYT's attempt to conquer California by email newsletter. California Today was a daily roundup of news items and observations from the Times, other media outlets and blogs, and first-hand contributions from NYT reporters in the state. In Friday's newsletter, McPhate announced he has left the NYT. He has moved to the Central Coast town of Los Osos, and later in November will be launching his own rival California email newsletter. "The Golden Stater" will try to remedy one of the flaws in the NYT approach and split into two versions: Southern California and Northern California. You can sign up here.

Meanwhile, California Today will continue without McPhate. They are seeking applications, actually — and soliciting ideas from the many applicants who won't be hired.

We may be The New York Times but we care deeply about California, a state that drives some of the most urgent issues of the day and is full of people who devour Times journalism. California is a leader when it comes to climate change, immigration, technology and so much else. Its big stories, from natural disasters to politics, regularly attract huge audiences....

We are now seeking an ambitious, digitally savvy journalist to join our team. You will be on the forefront of our effort to connect with even more California readers through a five-day a week newsletter.


You should live in California, know the state well, be bursting with ideas, have a proven track record of breaking news, write with a distinctive voice and have the metabolism to create an impossible-to-put-down news product for a large discerning audience.

Media people doing stuff

Vanessa-Grigoriadis-by-Jacob-Fabricius.jpgVanessa Grigoriadis by Zocalo/Jacob Fabricius.

Gustavo Arellano, formerly of OC Weekly, writes at Reason about The Death of the Alt-Weekly As Told By An Industry Lifer... San Francisco Chronicle publisher Jeff Johnson, one of the LA Times publishers to depart during the Tribune era, was named publisher of the year by Editor & Publisher... CJR surveys the scene of California news nonprofits with an eye on CalMatters, the Sacramento start-up run by former LA Times political reporter Dave Lesher,.. KCRW's Warren Olney answers questions in the Zocalo green room. Also author and journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis and state Senate leader Kevin de Leon... Our columnist Bill Boyarsky speaks to Bob Stern's UCLA Extension class on the Trump presidency about media issues and more. Podcast... Molly Knight, the author of last year's "The Best Team Money Can Buy: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Wild Struggle to Build a Baseball Powerhouse,” op-eds for the New York Times about her World Series feelings and being an Angeleno.

SPIL-cvr1-20160126.jpg"Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles, 1925-1965" by Tom Zimmerman with J. Eric Lynxwiler, from my friends at Angel City Press, won in Art, Architecture, and Photography at this year's Southern California Independent Booksellers Association book awards. List of winners... Nancy Rommelmann is "writing about Los Angeles (again), while sitting in New York."... Former "Outlander" writer-producer Anne Kenney's first play, "Last Call," will get a free public reading at the Open Fist Theatre Company at the Atwater Village Theatre... Michael Sigman writes about two friends going through the difficulties of Early Onset Alzheimer’s... KCRW news anchor Chery Glaser guest-hosted on Kitty Felde's Book Club for Kids... Homeboy Industries founder Gregory Boyle has a second book coming, "Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship."... Emmett Rensin has now "actively followed some ten seasons of the Clippers franchise and each one has felt like a generation."

Merry Lepper and the Culver City Marathon

mary-lepper-davis.jpgMerry Lepper was the student runner who, in 1963, disguised herself to compete in the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City. She was the first woman in the U.S. to finish a full marathon. History tried to forget about Lepper and her feat, but LA Observed contributor David Davis tracked down her story for his 2012 e-book, "Marathon Crasher: The Life and Times of Merry Lepper, the First American Woman to Run a Marathon." This weekend Lepper re-appeared under her own byline in the Players Tribune. Good lede: "Fifty-four years ago, I got away with a crime. I’m still proud of it today." Sample:

Like most young women in those days, I didn’t have any formal athletic training. But I loved to run. And I had always been pretty good at long distances.

It was a cool December morning at Veterans Memorial Park in Culver City, California, where the annual Western Hemisphere Marathon was set to begin. I made my way to the starting line at the entrance of the park. I was nervous. I was excited. I knew I needed to go through with what I had planned.

Nice yarn.


Patrick Soon-Shiong faces questions over his genetic tests - Politico

Westside Pavilion mall for sale - Curbed LA

LA Conservancy wins grant to rehab Formosa Cafe - National Trust for Historic Preservation

Why Silicon Beach Bros Are Buying in Brentwood - Hollywood Reporter

Male mammoths fell into tar pits more than females - Science

Rams punter Johnny Hekker might be the most valuable player in the entire NFL - New York Times

Called it - Sports Illustrated

Mural follow up


"L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective" being disassembled at Union Station. Photo by Don Bentley.

No "Selected Tweets" today.

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