LA Observed Notes: Getting ready for 2018

mysse-pigeons.jpgSee "The harsh beauty and banality of the 110-105 interchange" below. Photo by Lindsey Mysse.

Happy New Year 2018. As always, between posts you can keep up with LA Observed on Twitter — now with 24,852 followers.

Top of the news

• Iran state TV: 9 killed in nationwide protests, unrest - AP
• Death toll rises in Iran unrest as Rouhani acknowledges protesters' 'rightful demands' - LA Times
• Peter Martins Retires From New York City Ballet After Misconduct Allegations - NYT
• A tsunami of store closures is about to hit the US - Business Insider

LA Times union vote is Thursday

lat-union-ballot.jpgThe first milestone of 2018 on the LA media scene is very likely to be Thursday's scheduled vote on guild representation in the Los Angeles Times newsroom. It's the first-ever union vote by LAT journalists, and while the paper's top editors fight the union move with memos and messages about potentially dire consequences, the newsroom itself appears divided. A vocal core group of more than 50 reporters, producers and editors has been waging a social media and web campaign to build support inside other papers around the country, apparently to help persuade hesitant LATers. The public list of guild backers inside the Times skews younger and is light on names from Sports and other departments outside Metro, National and the web staff, where the most vocal guild organizers work.

Meanwhile, some prominent veterans of the Photo department are pushing to have the photographers excluded from the vote and any bargaining unit formed to represent the larger newsroom. A Dec. 20 email from Marcus Yam and Al Seib argued that photojournalists have different needs and more at stake than the reporters and editors. They claim the backing of most of the photographers, but at this point the photo staff is part of the editorial staff that will vote yes or no on Thursday.

The future of photojournalists at the Times is definitely a sore point. Tronc boss Michael Ferro eliminated staff photogs when he ran the Chicago Sun-Times, basically saying that photos when needed could just be grabbed off the web. The NewsGuild proponents at the LAT say they are organizing to protect the Times from the ravages of cuts and eroding standards that many fear are the actual agendas of Ferro and the new editor, Lewis D'Vorkin, in the name of digital innovation.

The guild backers also want raises, naturally, and spent the end of December circulating the revelation that Ferro spends millions of Tronc dollars on a corporate jet leased from one of his own firms and has "a sweetheart deal that pays him $5-million a year to provide 'consulting services' to his own company."

Times publisher Ross Levinsohn said in a December 20 note to the staff that the union could impact the paper's future. "The decision to unionize isn’t just a newsroom issue, it’s a total company issue," he wrote. "We want and need strong, thriving and rich world-class editorial. We also need great digital products and smart, effective marketing....There are always tradeoffs where we invest, where we don’t, and how much."

Reporters whose bylines you may know who are pushing the guild include David Zahniser, Bettina Boxall, Carolina Miranda, David Lazarus, Matt Pearce, Laura Nelson, Sarah Parvini, Maya Lau and Brittny Mejia.

The vote is by secret ballot cast in person on the first floor of the Times building at 1st and Spring streets and at the Orange County satellite office. Mail-in ballots could delay the tallying of results until later in January.

Meanwhile: Unions are gaining a foothold at digital media outlets

Most clicked in 2017 on the LA Times website

The LA Times Facebook account says "our #1 story this year" was not a story at all, or anything produced by the news staff of the paper. Rather, it was the editorial page's series about about Donald Trump as president: "Nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this trainwreck." You might remember, Our Dishonest President ran in seven parts in April, less than three months into the Trump presidency, and then was re-published as an instant book and hawked in house ads that ran through the paper for months.

This was all under the previous regime. Since Levinsohn took over as publisher in August, I haven't seen much about the book. Nothing right now on the LAT's opinion web section that I can find.

Hollywood women announce Time's Up

WOMEN-FIGHT-BACK-NYT.jpgSome 300 producers, actors, directors, agents and other women in positions of power in Hollywood have gone public with Time's Up, a initiative "to do something about" sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the industry and in other workplaces. The major players include Shonda Rhimes, Eva Longoria, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Emma Stone, Jill Soloway and Donna Langley, the chairwoman of Universal Pictures. Oprah Winfrey is a backer of a legal defense fund the group says will support women who face retaliation.

The New York Times story announcing the group on Monday says "The initiative includes a legal defense fund, backed by $13 million in donations, to help less privileged women — like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels — protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it." They also intend legislation "to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims," and pressure for gender parity at studios and talent agencies. Time's Up grew out of meetings among women at Creative Artists Agency, the NYT says.

From the Time's Up website:

TIME’S UP is a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.

Powered by women, TIME’S UP addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential. We partner with leading advocates for equality and safety to improve laws, employment agreements, and corporate policies; help change the face of corporate boardrooms and the C-suite; and enable more women and men to access our legal system to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Harvey Weinstein Will Not Go Quietly - Kate Aurthur/BuzzFeed

A new Sulzberger takes over at the NYT

On Jan. 1 Arthur Gregg Sulzberger began his new life as publisher of the family newspaper, the New York times. He's been making the rounds talking about the future challenges ahead for journalists and the news business, and on Monday he posted A Note From Our New Publisher. He gets what's at stake for the nation and how the Trumps of the world are on the wrong side.

A sample:

Misinformation is rising and trust in the media is declining as technology platforms elevate clickbait, rumor and propaganda over real journalism, and politicians jockey for advantage by inflaming suspicion of the press. Growing polarization is jeopardizing even the foundational assumption of common truths, the stuff that binds a society together.

Like our predecessors at The Times, my colleagues and I will not give in to these forces....

What won’t change: We will continue to give reporters the resources to dig into a single story for months at a time. We will continue to support reporters in every corner of the world as they bear witness to unfolding events, sometimes at great personal risk. We will continue to infuse our journalism with expertise by having lawyers cover law, doctors cover health and veterans cover war. We will continue to search for the most compelling ways to tell stories, from prose to virtual reality to whatever comes next. We will continue to put the fairness and accuracy of everything we publish above all else — and in the inevitable moments we fall short, we will continue to own up to our mistakes, and we’ll strive to do better.

Marijuana becomes legal in California

If you have enjoyed having your fellow Californians drive while texting, checking Waze, eating, doing their makeup, talking on the phone and trying to sneak home from the bar without killing anyone, you can look forward now to the guy in front of you being too high to notice the precious left-turn arrow before it's too late.

OK, it's more than that.

• A 'monumental moment' for fully legal marijuana in California - LA Times
• 2018's New Laws for California Drivers - NBC4
• New California laws cover immigration, marijuana, education, criminal justice - AP

Final year of the Jerry Brown era

The political race of the year in California in 2018 will be the campaign to succeed Jerry Brown as governor. If you're not already tired of Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa and the rest, maybe you will enjoy. There also will be some intense politicking around House races as Democrats try to knock off some Republicans and further weaken President Trump. Plus elections to replace Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who resigned for health reasons over the Christmas break, and the various lawmakers forced out over their past sexual behavior toward women. Already, the politics of the East San Fernando Valley have been roiled by the resignations of Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh.

Politics news to note:
• In Los Angeles, homicides are down, but violent crime is up for the fourth year in a row - LA Times
• L.A. and its trash haulers are quarreling over customer bills in the city's new recycling program - LAT
• Mayor Garcetti at bedside of wounded LAPD officer Joy Park - Instagram
• Trying to get through on L.A.'s 311 hotline? You're probably waiting longer on hold - LAT

Media notes

At least 81 reporters were killed and more than 250 imprisoned in 2017, according to the International Federation of Journalists. At least 262 journalists are imprisoned, with Turkey, China and Egypt accounting for more than the rest of the world combined... NYT reporter Mike Schmidt discusses his golf club interview with President Trump... Longtime LAT op-ed conservative Max Boot gets woke by Trump: "I no longer think, as I once did, that 'political correctness' is a bigger threat than the underlying racism and sexism that continue to disfigure our society decades after the civil rights and women’s rights movements."... What Russian Journalists Uncovered About Russian Election Meddling, in The Atlantic.

Brian Stelter's recap of a year of monumental change in the media... 2017 Box Office: Global Revenue Hits Record $40B Even as Movie Attendance Plummets in U.S. - THR... The three most popular movies at theaters in the U.S. and Canada were “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Wonder Woman” — each driven by female characters... There is currently no editor or publisher at the NY Daily News, which Tronc acquired in 2017... Playboy could be transitioning out of the Hefner family and looking to drop the print magazine, the WSJ says.

Whither the LA Weekly?: I picked up the year-end LA Weekly in print and it was beyond wispy in new content — and still without a masthead. The best-of-2017 feature is based on stories by the writers the new owners fired. The news stream on the website is dead. Since I last posted about the Weekly, fired editor Mara Shalhoup has landed as deputy editor of Atlanta Magazine. Former arts and culture editor Gwynedd Stuart is now the digital managing editor at Los Angeles Magazine. The new stumblebum owners apologized for their fumbles, vowed to be better, then suspended interim editor Hillel Aron for offensively juvenile social media posts he trafficked in as a young adult. Ex-writers are still calling on advertisers to boycott. Other than that, the new LA Weekly is going great. Advice: avoid until further notice.

Media people: Robert Siegel steps down as co-host of NPR's "All Things Considered" at the end of the week. Mary Louise Kelly begins in the chair on Jan. 17... Warren Olney op-ed in LAT: The cowardly way L.A. perceives its homeless only makes it harder to get them help... Gustavo Arellano had his first story published by the New Yorker, on the comfort of tamales at the holidays... The LAT's Kenneth Turan reflects on "The Post" and his time at the Washington Post... Craig Silverman of BuzzFeed: I Helped Popularize The Term “Fake News” And Now I Cringe Every Time I Hear It... James Nash, for eight months last year the director of communications for Controller Ron Galperin, is now a statehouse reporter for Gannett in New Jersey... The sportswriter fired for his Trump tweets... Commentator Joan Walsh landed at CNN after being dropped by MSNBC.

Harsh beauty and banality of the 110-105 interchange

train-is-coming.jpgLA journalist Daniel Hernandez (an LA Weekly alum as it happens) has a nice piece at LA Taco observing the concrete junction of the 110 and 105 freeways in south Los Angeles. "I’ve always called it The Cathedral, because it feels like you’re inside one when you’re driving under the towering, chapel-like crests of the ramps connecting the highways," he writes. "The sounds of speeding engines in trucks and cars amplify against the network of massive concrete pillars sustaining the bridges, so it almost sounds like voices singing from a hymnal."

He visits with photographer Lindsey Mysse, who saw in the 110-105 interchange and its transit station "a window into a side of Los Angeles he never thought he’d get to know."

Well, really what happened was that I had just come back from New York City, had been dumped by a girl, and my art career had kinda fallen apart. Everyone was pissed at me, and I just needed to get a real job.

I live in San Pedro and I got a job in El Segundo, so I started commuting from San Pedro to El Segundo — the bus, from San Pedro, to get on the Green Line to get to El Segundo — and it was just this ugly, ugly place to me. It represented a defeat in life. It felt like the world was making fun of me. It actually started as a joke. I’d check-in at the 105-110 freeway, and start taking photos of it …

Mysee has a bunch of photos from the interchange.

Place notes

• Louisiana in Los Angeles: How New Orleans Jazz Traveled to California - Lynell George/LARB

• L.A. was ready for its close-up on TV in 2017 - LA Times

• Inside 1600 Vine, the Hollywood Home of Social Media’s Stars - NYT

• Historic Gift of Pristine Bixby Ranch to Inspire Tech's Elite - The Atlantic

• Let's just say it isn't about the NFL team -

• Sea stars return to California after devastating die-off - OC Register

• Why experts are so skeptical of Elon Musk’s LA tunnels - Curbed LA

• Who Wants to Buy the Most Expensive House in America? - NYT

• Westin Bonaventure architect John Portman, who aimed to soothe the anxiety of the postwar city, dies at 93 - LA Times, NYT

• The 14 Best Mom and Pop Bookstores in L.A. - Los Angeles Magazine

• Self-Help Graphics will own its building for first time in history - LA Taco

Hammer Museum looking for a few good striptease dancers


Selected tweets


More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Notes stories on LA Observed:
LA Observed Notes: Clippers hire big-time writer, unfunny Emmys, editor memo at the Times and more
LA Observed Notes: Media notes, homeless ruling, scooters and lion cubs
LA Observed Notes: Times hiring binge, LA Weekly investor sues, media tidbits
LA Observed Notes: Editor moves, NYT steps on JGold turf, jobs and more
LA Observed Notes: Long Beach, LAist, Soon-Shiong and much more
LA Observed Notes: Soon-Shiong era at LA Times begins
LA Observed Notes: Bourdain's LA, Villaraigosa fades to black
LA Observed Notes: After the holiday weekend edition