LA Observed Notes: Gaza to El Segundo, Kilauea to Burbank

century-plaza-construc.jpgThe Century Plaza Hotel in Century City is fully gutted. Total remake. LA Observed on Instagram.

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On the ground in Gaza

Los Angeles Times staff photographer Marcus Yam was sent on assignment to Israel last week. He was on hand Monday for the deadly encounters in Gaza in which at least 55 Palestinians were killed. Follow his Twitter feed for his reports. Yam tweeted the shooting of a protester in front of him.

The New York Daily News cover for Tuesday contrasts the Gaza bloodshed with the pomp around the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, a pet cause of Trump financier Sheldon Adelson.


What's up with the LA Times sale?

Not much, apparently. The silence around Patrick Soon-Shiong's deal to acquire the Times and San Diego's Union-Tribune is unsettling in the Los Angeles newsroom, and I suspect in San Diego too. It's especially nerve-wracking in LA since the Times might have to get out of its former building within weeks, and because Tronc acts like it has already moved on from owning the Times. Somebody has to sell the ads, write the checks and pay the bills — don't they?

On an earnings call last week, Tronc's Justin Dearborn said the hangup has been in disentangling the corporate services and technology that Tronc provides to the Times. He admitted that the sale came together so abruptly that plans had not been made in advance on how to divest the Times from the rest of Tronc. Dearborn says the deal with Soon-Shiong allows the sale to await final closure as late as August 7. "I don’t envision in taking that long, but it is complex," he said.

Meanwhile, the flurry of El Segundo stories and columns published by the Times seems to have abated for now. It's one of the county's 88 cities, after all — not that exotic, really. Meanwhile, longtime tour guide Darrell Kunitomi has been leading a steady stream of Times alums and the curious public through the newsroom before it leaves downtown. He expects a big rush at the June 14 Downtown Art Walk, the last one before the expected move to El Segundo.

Before they go, data desk editor Ben Welsh has been tweeting photos of the cubicles inhabited by reporters and editors.

SoCal News Group adds a paywall

The horrible things happening at local newspapers across the country are only getting worse. On Monday, the Salt Lake Tribune laid off about a third of its remaining newsroom staff. This follows the carnage at the Denver Post, which the former owner Dean Singleton, who used to own the Los Angeles Daily News, says the Post has been "gutted" by the cutbacks ordered to satisfy earnings demands of hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which controls Digital First Media. The Gutting of The Denver Post is a Death Knell for Local News, writes a Denver news veteran staffer in the Atlantic.

It's been going on at the DFM newspapers in the Bay Area and here in Southern California too. This month, the SoCal News Group papers all installed a paywall to make people cough up something for the news content. Not sure those papers have enough prime content to offer after the deep cuts that preceded the paywall, but executive editor Frank Pine makes his case.

Real news gathering – the kind done by professional journalists who put their names on their work and who are accountable for its accuracy, fairness and balance – is not cheap...

We’re launching a digital subscription program, asking those who read our news to support local journalism by subscribing.

The first four weeks is only 99 cents. After that, we’re asking $10 every four weeks. That’s about what you probably pay for any one of a number of streaming video services.

And we’re worth it. We bring you the news, and more importantly, the news that’s relevant to you because it’s near you. Local news.

Our journalists are real people who live in the communities we cover, who go to the places we write about, and who know the issues they cover. We’re real people, and we do real news.

We believe that good journalism serves the people. We take seriously our obligation to inform the public and to ensure government is accountable to the governed. We are committed to the truth, and we are, ourselves, accountable to our readers as well as to those we cover.

Villaraigosa gets LA Times endorsement

The Times endorsement of the former mayor came as a surprise to many, in politics and within the Times. "The Times and @antonio4ca have been through a lot together... and that makes this endorsement even more remarkable," assistant managing editor Shelby Grad tweeted. He's in charge of city and state coverage, but the reporters and editors outside the editorial board have no say in the newspaper's election endorsements (and of course are not expected in any way to reflect the board's endorsement in their coverage.) As Sacramento bureau chief John Myers noted, the San Francisco Chronicle covered similar ground and endorsed Gavin Newsom.

The Times had editorial writer Mariel Garza explain the decision. It's not a very satisfying exercise; here's a condensed excerpt.

Some of you may be thinking we made our choice because of the L.A. connection.

Nope. That’s not at all how the endorsement process works. If it were, we wouldn’t need a staff of editorial writers and I wouldn’t have a job. In fact, our long familiarity with our former mayor, as seen through the deep archive of stories and editorials examining every achievement and failure of the first Latino mayor in modern L.A. history, was probably more of a liability to Villaraigosa...

I’m not at liberty to recount the details of the board’s discussion of the governor endorsement. All I will say is that it wasn’t quick, it wasn’t easy, and it had nothing to do with the L.A. connection.

Go read the whole thing. Here's a sample of the actual endorsement:

Villaraigosa served two terms as mayor, from 2005 to 2013. He stumbled at times — especially early on when he approved overly generous raises of between 14% and 25% over five years for 22,000 city employees, a decision he now correctly refers to as "a mistake." He made brash promises — 1,000 new cops, a mayoral takeover of L.A. schools and 1 million new trees, to name the most prominent ones; none of those promises was quite fulfilled.

But when the worst economic recession of modern times hit, Villaraigosa stepped up. In 2009, as Los Angeles grappled with a projected budget shortfall that was expected to reach $1 billion by 2013 (thanks in part to the imprudent pay raises), he pushed through deep and unpopular — but necessary — cuts to programs and city services. Two years later, he slashed paychecks, furloughed employees and rolled back pension benefits. This made the former labor organizer the enemy of the most powerful force in City Hall, public employee unions. We give him credit for this not because we are hostile to labor unions or pleased to see services or salaries cut, but because in the city, as in the state, budgets have to be balanced, leaders have to learn to say no and fiscal responsibility can't be tossed aside.

Politics links

• A diverse trio of LAPD veterans makes the cut as finalists for chief - LA Times
• From the streets of Atwater to the next possible chief of the LAPD: Meet Robert Arcos - LA Taco
• The Gavin Newsoms pick up their dog's poop with bags with Trump's face on them - SF Gate
• Eric Garcetti, still weighing a presidential run, delivers commencement address in New Hampshire - LAT
• Trump is more popular than Dems want to admit - Willie Brown
• Yes, California has the 5th largest economy in the world. But when you factor in the cost of living, California now has the highest poverty rate in the U.S. CALmatters
• Santa Clarita becomes the first LA County city to break with California on sanctuary state law. - CBS LA
• "If you're rich enough, news outlets will put forward your ridiculous, unworkable ideas over and over again." - Matt Ford, Twitter
• "This just might be the best ballot statement ever" - Steve Maviglio, Twitter

Miscoverage of Kilauea

lava-puna-usgs.jpgLava spreading across Puna on the flank of Kilauea. USGS photo.

The ongoing eruption of lava from the Kilauea volcano crater on the island of Hawaii is a big threat to the island's residents and a huge story. The national media finally caught on after a few days of stunning pictures from journalists on the ground and residents, supported by daily explainers from USGS scientists. Even so, some media outlets have whiffed — either over-hyping the threat, or in the case of AP, making the unsubstantiated leap that Kilauea somehow raises the threat level of the so-called Pacific ring of fire volcanoes like those in California.

For some reason legal scholar Laurence Tribe got all apocalyptic about the volcano on Twitter, and got his ass called out by a scientist.

My go-to source of news since the beginning of the eruption has been Hawaii News Now and, especially, reporter Mileka Lincoln. She's been in the Puna neighborhood and right up at the lava fissures all along. Her reports are often personal yet carefully accurate. Her news Monday night is that, sadly, the situation keeps getting worse. A red alert for air quality, and a 19th fissure putting out lava.

From earlier:

Lincoln is a local, and if I read this correctly in a Mother's Day tweet she pays her respects in Hawaiian at the lava line and also offers "Mahalo piha to all who’ve shown such kindness, generosity & incredible care for this place & our people." She's getting props on Facebook from Hawaii residents.

Good to have the sound on even when she's not talking. From Monday night:

In addition to the freshest news updates, Hawaii News Now has also given us a primer on how native Hawaiians view Pele, the fire goddess who by tradition inhabits Kilauea. And on how you stop a flow of lava: Most times, you don't.

Adam Parfrey

Adam Parfrey, the founder of publisher Feral House, died last week at age 61 and on Monday merited an obituary in the New York Times. Parfrey "breached the boundaries of kooky but tolerable popular culture by publishing Joseph Goebbels’s only novel, screeds by the Unabomber and Charles Manson, and books on taboo topics like cannibals, Satanists, necrophiliacs and pedophiles," the obit lede said.

Much of Mr. Parfrey’s catalog was fodder for a modest but loyal following of conspiracists, cultists and paranoiacs. Most of his titles were published under two imprints with telltale names: first Amok Press and later Feral House (its motto: “Refuses to Be Domesticated”).

Mr. Parfrey could also claim credit for a number of breakout books, several of which inspired television shows and films with their own cult followings, including the director Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.”

Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing did the honors more personally:

He was one of the most interesting people I've ever met, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the arcane, the esoteric, and the unusual. He was a great dinner host, too. I spent many memorable evenings in his amazing 1920s storybook style house in Los Angeles....

Adams' publishing house, Feral House, published a wide variety of books about subcultures, cults and mass movements, crime, sexuality, political theory, and history. Many of our friends wrote books for Feral House, such as Martin Olson's Encyclopedia of Hell ("Written by and for demons, instructing them on how to destroy mankind"), Sean Tejaratchi's Liartown USA, and Al Ridenour's The Krampus, and The Old, Dark Christmas Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil.

Adam also wrote or edited excellent books about old, weird America: It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps, Citizen Keane: The Big Lies Behind the Big Eyes, Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and Their Influence on American Society, Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment, and many other titles. He re-published one of my all time favorite books, You Can't Win, the 1926 autobiography of a hobo burglar.

"We do not publish fiction," says the About Us page at Feral House's website. "But, if a personal obsession has caused you to investigate a fascinating piece of history or cultural phenomenon, or if you are an artist or photographer interested in unusual subject matter, we’d be interested to hear about it." I don't know if anyone else is capable of carrying on Adam's outstanding work. I've never met anyone remotely like him.

Media notes

oprah-usc-annenberg.jpgOprah Winfrey urged the graduates of USC Annenberg to fight against the fake news scourge. Video of her 20-minute speech, USC's coverage... White House leakers leak to Axios' Jonathan Swan about leaking and why the Trump team hardly keeps anything private. (Hint: they don't trust each other or Trump, or like each other.)... The NYT's Maggie Haberman on Trump: "He has a lack of understanding of how news coverage actually works, and unfortunately so do a lot of his supporters."... Her boss, executive editor Dean Baquet, factors big in the new documentary on the NYT.

The big New Yorker investigative piece that prompted the very quick resignation of New York AG Eric Schneiderman isn't in the print edition. Online only, "as is more and more of what we do," says digital editor Michael Luo... Pulitzer winner Ronan Farrow in conversation with the New Yorker on growing up in a show-business family, his early experience in international relations, and pursuing the Harvey Weinstein story... Former Lakers star Pau Gasol is the latest pro athlete to go first-person in the Players' Tribune. He calls out those who oppose the idea of a female head coach in the NBA.... The Nation named Atossa Araxia Abrahamian as senior editor.... ICYMI: Ta-Nehisi Coates, the national correspondent for The Atlantic, on the Kanye West business.... Canadian newsprint tariffs start to take a toll on U.S. newspaper industry.

SoCal notes: KPCC landed a big piece from Rina Palta on vacant homeless beds: Rats, roaches, bedbugs, mold: Why thousands of LA's homeless shelter beds sit empty each night... KPCC is "seeking a hands-on data editor to join our newsroom, working closely with the investigative team and other editors and reporters." Info... Also CBS Interactive is looking for an editor-in-chief for its revamped concept of TV Guide, to be based in Burbank.... KNBC has added long-time NBC News producer Josh Underwood-Davis to the station's investigative team. In February the team had added former KFI reporter Eric Leonard... Chef Roy Choi will host a new KCET series, "Broken Bread," in production now for air in 2019. "We are going to take a look at the broken systems in our country and find the good people on the ground doing things about changing those systems."... Pop-Up Magazine (publisher of California Sunday) is "looking for talented editors/producers to hunt for fascinating reported story ideas and then help produce them for live audiences across the country." Info... Pop Up Magazine returned to the Ace Hotel on Saturday night.

Media people doing stuff

LA Times editorial writer Carla Hall wrote an opinion page piece for Monday addressed to white people: "Could you stop calling the police every time you see a black person doing something ordinary?"... Former KNBC reporter Doug Kriegel is on the June ballot running for the state's Board of Equalization... CBS LA anchor Suzanne Marques posted on Facebook about the death of her younger brother Matt Marks... LA Times crime and police reporter Kate Mather resigned to enter Boalt Hall Law School at Berkeley... Joe Tanfani is leaving the LAT Washington bureau's Justice beat for Reuters' national affairs team... Couple of classic Sacramento bylines on the LA Times obit for former Gov. George Deukmejian: Claudia Luther and Richard C. Paddock. Both have been gone from the Times for 10 years or so. Claudia now writes for UCLA Magazine and Rick is in Asia for the New York Times.... David Siders is moving to Politico's national politics team after a stint on the California Playbook newsletter alongside Carla Marinucci... Ailene Voisin, a Herald Examiner alumnus, writes at the Sacramento Bee about wrapping up her sports columnist career... LA rocker and TV music creator Liz Phair is going back out on the road to support a massive re-release of her original Chicago work, with media interviews all over the place and an upcoming book. She tweets to fans about the tour: "I’m trying to do as many of the girly-sound versions as I can, since you may never hear them again, but I reserve the right to make sane, executive decisions on these matters of national importance..."

Books and authors: Patt Morrison had a reunion with her old KPCC colleagues for an AirTalk appearance on her new book, "Don't Stop the Presses," about newspapers.... Robert Hilburn talks about his new biography of Paul Simon at his old home in the LA Times Calendar section... Former LA Weekly deputy editor Joe Donnelly is interviewed in Zyzzyva about his new anthology, "L.A. Man."... Nancy Boyarsky has won the Eric Hoffer Micro Press Award for her novel, "The Swap."... Dennis McCarthy visits Burbank book store Book Castle-Movie World, closing this week after 51 years.

Also: Nice blurb on Twitter tonight for Jon Weisman's "Brothers in Arms":


• LA’s notorious dine-and-dash dater strikes again - Eater LA
• Fall Exhibition to Explore L.A.’s Extraordinary Architectural Past - The Huntington
• LAUSD Votes to Demolish Roosevelt High School’s R Building - LA Conservancy
• Why We’re ‘Camera Trapping’ Along the L.A. River - Heal the Bay
• John W. Robinson, legendary author of hiking guides, histories of Southern California mountains, dies at 88 - OC Register
• Are the reeling Dodgers really this bad or can they turn their season around? - The Athletic

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
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