Our occasional roundup of news, notes and chatter. Between posts you can join more than 25,000 followers who keep up with LA Observed on Twitter.
Morning update:Tronc announced Monday that Michael Ferro would retire immediately as chairman — before closing of the $500 million deal to sell the Los Angeles Times to Patrick Soon-Shiong. Ferro's people say he's burned out on the newspaper game and wants to go out with a win. I never doubted he was in it for the big payday, but there's skepticism in Chicago and Los Angeles about the reasons for his exit. Expect more to come. Justin Dearborn becomes the top exec at Tronc. LAT, NYT, release
More came: Fortune reports that two women have accused Ferro of inappropriate sexual advances before he became the head of Tronc. Fortune says it contacted Ferro's office last week without reply. Today he retired and his spokesperson says now that he's a private citizen, he won't comment.
Top of the news• Trump Assails Mueller, Drawing Rebukes From Republicans - New York Times
• Donald Trump and the Craven Firing of Andrew McCabe - Jeffrey Toobin
• Villaraigosa and his campaigns have benefited from groups that critics say prey upon the poor, people of color - LA Times
• Los Angeles ordered to stop enforcing gang injunctions - LA Taco
• LA cracks down on overnight RV parking, forcing homeless to scramble - LA Times
• Good news, drivers: Topanga Canyon is open again - KPCC
Time for you to rethink Facebook
A massive story out of the U.K. is providing gripping details about the extent to which a secret data operation funded by conservative Robert Mercer and others grabbed personal details on up to 50 million Facebook users and steered the data to help Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign — and inflame British voters to support Brexit. They suckered you into giving access to your personal data by luring you to answer personality quizzes and other seemingly benign interactive junk that Facebook throws at us. Data on you and your Facebook friends went to Mercer's Cambridge Analytica and then on to, yes, Russian political operatives. It sounds as if your personal preferences were matched with political and election data, and part of the resulting manipulation was to litter your Facebook feed with fake news items manufactured to help Trump or hurt Clinton and to wage Steve Bannon's culture wars.
Details are being fleshed out by reporting in the New York Times, the Guardian, NBC and others, including the confessions of a Canadian data whiz turned whistleblower named Christopher Wylie (above), recruited to work with Cambridge Analytica. Per the stories, special counsel Robert Mueller is looking at the shady firm, its ties to Russian characters loyal to Putin and possible links to the Trump movement through Bannon and others.
Important stuff happening here -- and getting out largely from the hard and possibly dangerous work of journalists in the U.S. and overseas, while Facebook, Russia and the Trumpsters deny culpability. It's U.K. officials who are pushing further investigation into Facebook's role and the Russia connections. Some essential reading:
• Data Firm Tied to Trump Campaign Talked Business With Russians - NYT
• How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions - NYT
• Facebook’s Role in Data Misuse Sets Off a Storm on Two Continents - NYT
• Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach - The Guardian
• Cambridge Analytica chief appears to have misled Parliament on data and Russia - NBC News
• How Cambridge Analytica turned Facebook ‘likes’ into a lucrative political tool - The Guardian
• No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun any more - Guardian opinion columnist
• Leverage. Collusion. Mercer. Bannon. Nix. Putin. Assange. What more will we learn in the weeks ahead? - Twitter thread from Justin Hendrix
• How Facebook's old terms of service allowed Cambridge Analytica to get data on 50M people from just 270K users of an app - ReCode
• Facebook "privately welcomed" help of whistleblower, then publicly suspended account, attorney says - CBS News
O.J. Simpson gives interview to Buffalo newspaperTim Graham/Buffalo News
Simpson has turned down many media requests since getting out of prison in Nevada but he agreed to speak with sports reporter Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. Remember, Buffalo is where Simpson began his pro football career. The story is datelined Las Vegas, where he lives in a 5,000-square-foot, five-bedroom golf course home owned by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Jim Barnett.
Ah, and this: "There were ground rules: No video; no sensationalized promotion of the interview; questions should be limited to his playing career." But he did talk about "the LA crap," about knowing Donald Trump, about Michael Jackson and his own possible brain disease.
Simpson, however, did not limit his answers to football. He described life as Nevada inmate No. 1027820 inside Lovelock Correctional Center and discussed adjusting to life since being paroled five months ago.
Simpson expressed concerns about CTE, the degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head.... Simpson also referenced the two-hour Fox special that aired the night before. "O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?" was based on a 2006 videotaped interview meant as an infomercial for the ill-conceived and ghostwritten book "If I Did It," a supposed theoretical account of the 1994 murders of Simpson's estranged wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, crimes for which Simpson was tried and acquitted.
"When people want to make money or get ratings," Simpson said, "they're going to pimp me. I'm going to get pimped."
Media notesGood way to start the week:
I spent some time with Hope Hicks during the last several weeks. She declined to speak on the record. This is the result of interviews with more than 30 current & former senior White House officials, campaign staffers, & sources close to the president: https://t.co/H9D6OZ1AYH— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) March 19, 2018
The latest from Maggie Haberman in the NYT: "A dozen people close to Mr. Trump or the White House, including current and former aides and longtime friends, described him as newly emboldened to say what he really feels and to ignore the cautions of those around him." That's led to comments and actions "that have pushed the Trump presidency in an ever more tumultuous direction."... "We're all watching the Donald Trump Show - and that’s just how he likes it," writes McKay Coppins in The Atlantic... Peter Beinart argues in The Atlantic that Nancy Pelosi is unpopular because she's a woman, not for valid political or leadership reasons.
Tronc began the threatened "reshaping" of its newspapers with layoffs last week at the Chicago Tribune. It's going to get ugly across the poorly managed chain. Also last week, some editors at the Los Angeles Times were invited to Culver City to meet probable new owner Patrick Soon-Shiong. They came back talking about how badly things would have gone for the Times, starting now, if Tronc had not sold. One of the first agenda items for Soon-Shiong: where will Times journalists sit come summer? Time is ticking on the Times lease to occupy the former Times Mirror Square. They might have to pay through the nose to stay put awhile... Also pressing is a move by preservationists to get city landmark status for the Times buildings before owner Onni begins to redevelop. Not a sure thing by any means, given the political process at City Hall, but elements of the buildings are eligible — including the globe lobby with its 1930s Hugo Ballin mural.
Deep cuts last week at the Denver Post were closely watched at Digital First Media's papers in SoCal, which include the Daily News, Register and San Bernardino Sun. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan says the company and its investment-fund owners are strip-mining the papers: "I tried to talk to someone in Alden’s New York headquarters on Wednesday to ask about the apparently counterproductive strategy of endless cuts but was told no one was there to speak to the news media."
Some reading: Meredith Corp, the country’s largest magazine publisher, is expected to lay off 200 to 300 staffers as soon as this week after recently completing the acquisition of Time Inc., says the Wall Street Journal... When all is said, done, and litigated in the Stormy Daniels case, the biggest question might be why President Trump didn’t just let her talk. The New Yorker... Time's Up wants to know why New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance won't file charges against Harvey Weinstein — again. The group asked New York governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate... Ronan Farrow's coverage of Weinstein for The New Yorker won an Ellie at last week's National Magazine Awards... Alex Tizon, the former LA Times correspondent who died last year, won a posthumous Ellie for My Family's Slave in the Atlantic.
Can a movie review site powered by female critics help change Hollywood? KPCC's The Frame asks... How do you make a speech at a provincial liberal arts college into national news? As it turns out, the basic requirements are simple: a shareable video, provocation and persistence. The Guardian... The real problem with the New York Times op-ed page: it’s not honest about US conservatism. "It wants to challenge its readers, but not with the ugly truth." Vox... The origins of the reality TV show "Cops" and the impact it had. PopBitch... Why Ava DuVernay and Warner Bros are a great match. The Atlantic... How the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Buzzfeed have been using machine learning in the newsroom NiemanLab
Chris Erskine's farewell to his sonLos Angeles Times columnist Chris Erskine lost his oldest son to a traffic crash earlier this month. Christopher Erskine was 32 and had his early life chronicled in part in his dad's columns in the Times. In a March 15 column, Chris writes that "the human body was not built for such debilitating grief. The lungs are too weak and the heart is too tender. We are not engineered for this."
My son leaves behind a giant tribe of friends and neighbors who will somehow see us through. He leaves behind two gorgeous sisters and a little brother who lost his very best buddy — the guy he goofed with, worshiped and adored.
And he leaves us that silly Siberian husky he brought home a year ago, the one that thinks there's a squirrel in every tree we pass.
Media people doing stuffKen Layne in the Mojave. Photo: Laura Crane
Ken Layne, the original LA media blogger who went on to Gawker and Wonkette among other places, is profiled as publisher of the quarterly Desert Oracle out of Joshua Tree. The piece in Pacific Standard chases a 2015 front-pager in the LA Times.
Former KCRW producer Jolie Myers, now at NPR, found and interviewed in St. Petersburg the Russian activist who uncovered the Russian troll factory named in the Mueller probe... Steve Oney wrote for Harvard's Nieman Storyboard: "Occasionally, a magazine piece is so good it makes you want to shout. Such is the case with David Grann's 'The White Darkness.'"... Mark Ebner writes about the last days of Stan Lee: "Months after losing his wife, the 95-year-old comic book legend is surrounded by charlatans and mountebanks."... Randy Lewis, the LAT music writer, penned an obit for Ventures' guitarist Nokie Edwards, who died at age 82: "For any kid who picked up an electric guitar in the 1960s, it never took long before they'd take a stab at trying to play 'Walk Don't Run.'"
Who should be the next Los Angeles Times architecture critic? Well first, it's not at all certain there will be an immediate, full-time successor to Christopher Hawthorne, who left journalism to be the city of LA's chief design officer. The Times in its smaller size currently has a lot of important beats uncovered. But if there is a next critic, Curbed writer Alissa Walker nominates LAT culture writer Carolina Miranda. Among others mentioned: Frances Anderton, Allison Arieff, Karrie Jacobs, Alexandra Lange, Kate Wagner, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Mimi Zeiger, Greg Goldin, Sam Lubell, Geoff Manaugh, Colin Marshall and Hawthorne’s predecessor, Nicolai Ouroussof.... KCRW's Madeleine Brand spoke with Hawthorne... Why L.A. Just Appointed a Design Czar: CityLab
LA Times Metro reporter Benjamin Oreskes stayed overnight in DTLA's new InterContinental Hotel on the same night as President Trump. Didn't get much, but he did get the term El Jefe in the paper. By the way, the 70th-floor lobby is the best new free place to get a spectacular view of the LA basin... Kyle Finck, leader of the HS Insider program at the LA Times, is leaving for grad school. The paper is looking for someone to run the high school-focused effort... Drew Tewksbury, the former LA Weekly managing editor, is contributing editor at GOOD Worldwide Inc... Leilah Bernstein, formerly of Los Angeles Magazine and the LA Times, has joined Entertainment Weekly as deputy copy chief... Kenneth R. Weiss, a former LA Times Pulitzer winner for the Altered Oceans series, writes about dying lakes in the March issue of National Geographic... Author and former LA sports writer Bill Christine gets screen time in a new TV documentary about the St. Louis Browns baseball team... New York Times Hollywood reporter Brooks Barnes talks about his personal tech use, including that he cut the cord from cable... Whit Johnson, formerly of KNBC, is joining ABC News as a correspondent based in New York City... Clark Sharon, a former writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Register, is homeless in Orange County. OC Weekly caught up with him.
Books and authorsAloudLA has added a May 24 event with James Comey, the fired FBI director who will be on book tour. It's at the 880-seat Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, not at Central Library... The schedule is out for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held at USC April 21-22... Book designer Amy Inouye is being honored April 7 with the Lummis Day Noisemaker Award for her community work in Highland Park. Inouye is president of Photo Friends of the LAPL and keeper of the Chicken Boy roof sculpture on Figueroa Street in Highland Park... New Yorker writers share what they are reading this week.
Adding to last week's new books from SoCal media people: Jon Weisman, the longtime baseball blogger and more, has a new book coming based on his favorite team (and ex-employer): Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, which will be published May 1 by Triumph Books... Longtime TV news producer Ken Davis is out with "In Bed With Broadcasting"... Sam McManis, the former LA Times sports writer and Sacramento Bee reporter, has written "Crossing California: A Cultural Topography of a Land of Wonder and Weirdness."... Alta, the new Northern California (mostly) journal, revisits LA Observed contributor Cari Beauchamp's anthology "My First Time in Hollywood."
Amy Kaufman's "Bachelor Nation" debuted on the New York Times bestseller list. The LA Times entertainment reporter's new book on The Batchelor phenomenon joins "I'll Be Gone In the Dark," by Michelle McNamara, whose search for the Golden State Killer was first a long piece in Los Angeles Magazine. Also a tweet:
I may or may not have just Googled the dad in the Subaru Forester commercial— Amy Kaufman (@AmyKinLA) March 17, 2018
A Mexican-American photographer’s view of postwar LAGovernor Pete Wilson speaks to the staff of La Opinión in 1994. Photo by George Rodriguez.
The New Yorker features George Rodriguez, who at the time of the East LA blowouts in 1968 "was a thirty-one-year-old photographer working at Columbia Pictures.
"It was a good job, working on the publicity stills of stars like Frank Sinatra and Jayne Mansfield. Rodriguez, who is also Mexican-American, had grown up at a different time, and in a different part of the city—South L.A., not the Eastside, which was the hotbed of the burgeoning Chicano movement. But he recognized that something important was happening. During lunch breaks, he grabbed his camera and drove across town to take pictures."
A new book, “Double Vision: The Photography of George Rodriguez,” collects Rodriguez's work in East LA and across the city. Josh Kun writes the opening essay. "Taken as a whole, Rodriguez’s work offers a different kind of double exposure. In dividing his attention between two worlds that overlap but rarely intersect, he created one of the truest chronicles of Los Angeles there is."
Place• "Big #SoCal storm currently taking shape over Pacific. Warm & extremely moist #PineappleExpress-type #AtmosphericRiver already developing" - Daniel Swain
• Tracing LA's Mexican and Irish connection for St. Patrick's Day - LA Taco
• Renderings show the dramatic makeover that could be in store for the lower LA River - Curbed LA
• West L.A. Strip Club Could Give Way to New Development - Urbanize LA
• The Broad has added a brand new Kusama infinity room to its collection - Los Angeles Magazine
• Getty Research Institute acquires Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions archives - ArtNews
• A Former Teenage Mallrat’s Ode to the Westside Pavilion - Los Angeles Magazine
• Work Begins on the Lucas Museum - Downtown News
• Newly tagged mountain lion P-64 crossed under the 101 freeway through a culvert - LA Observed on Twitter
How engineers see the water glass in CaliforniaThe California Water Blog has updated its take on how different players view the state's water picture. "Depending on your outlook, the proverbial glass of water is either half full or half empty. Not so for engineers in California." Sample:
Civil engineer: The glass is too big.
Flood control engineer: The glass should be 50 percent bigger.
Southern California water engineer: Can we get another pitcher?
Northern California water engineer: Who took half my water?
This is something I have never understood. The special counsel is the one person in the country who can truly exonerate Trump. Why undermine him if you truly believe you are innocent? https://t.co/qpmNtvzuH2— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) March 19, 2018
Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.— James Comey (@Comey) March 17, 2018
Just saw Rex Tillerson at Best Buy shopping for podcast equipment.— Todd Barry (@toddbarry) March 13, 2018
Tronc director of newsroom digital strategy tweeted this at the same moment longtime employees, my colleagues, were being laid off a few floors below. pic.twitter.com/jdYbukEFUX— Charlie J. Johnson (@Charliemagne) March 15, 2018
The next time you're tempted to think of "the media" as some amorphous entity, consider taking a look at these photos of @denverpost staff learning they will lose 30 members. https://t.co/iSbXQCG4MG #newsmatters— Katie Foody (@katiefoody) March 15, 2018
The life of a reporter, in one paragraph. pic.twitter.com/uZ5t8CTYBS— David Allen (@DavidAllen909) March 16, 2018
Denise Huskins survived a nightmare kidnapping & assault only to be re-traumatized and humiliated by irresponsible PIO statements. Still one of the more bizarre stories I’ve covered here in Southern California. https://t.co/ENyvxKQOP7— Libby Denkmann (@libdenk) March 16, 2018
46 of the #Pennridge225 served the first Saturday morning detention today. Pennridge students wore Parkland victims' names and sat, arms linked, for the whole dentention. A modern sit in. pic.twitter.com/sCuLxo9jE2— Pennridge225 (@NeverAgainPenn) March 17, 2018
Long-lost Sutro Baths photos from the San Francisco Chronicle archives https://t.co/oyRvhPOJOi— Kevin Roderick (@LAObserved) March 15, 2018
Stephen Hawking was my bae #briefhistoryoftime— Liz Phair (@PhizLair) March 14, 2018