LA Observed Notes: After the holiday weekend edition

memorial-day-2018-lanc.jpgFlags were laid by scouts at nearly 90,000 graves at Los Angeles National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day. More at LA Observed on Instagram.

Our occasional roundup of news, notes and chatter. This one's a little bit longer. Between posts you can join more than 25,000 followers who keep up with LA Observed on Twitter.

New media for Long Beach

I'm late to this development in local media, but will be watching with interest. Last week, Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Tim Grobaty, city editor Melissa Evans and public safety reporter Jeremiah Dobruck left the paper to start up a rival news organization covering Long Beach. When they gave notice, they apparently were asked to leave immediately. The details soon came out through the Los Angeles Business Journal: The trio will be the initial staff of an unnamed local news outlet to be bankrolled by Pacific 6, a new company run by Long Beach millionaire John Molina. Pacific 6 has interests in the city, including the Breakers hotel. More details to come.

Like any time a rich guy finances a news operation, but especially in Long Beach, the key here will be if the money people let the journalists cover the news with full immunity from the business interests and politics of the owners. “The mission of this is to cover the 2nd largest city in Los Angeles County in a way that Long Beach hasn’t seen in years,” spokesman David Sommers told the LABJ. Sommers was the spokesman for county supervisor Don Knabe, and the director of communications for the county supervisors, before going to work for Molina's previous healthcare business. So we'll see.

Background: The Press-Telegram has been cutting deeply into its reporting staff. Southern California News Group, publisher of the Press-Telegram, Daily News, Register and eight other papers, is owned by Digital First Media, which is forcibly decimating the staffs at most of its papers to fulfill demands by the investment fund that controls it, Alden Global Capital. This is the ownership killing the local newspapers in Denver, San Jose and elsewhere.

Initial coverage here said that the Press-Telegram was left with just one reporter plus freelancers, which the SoCal News Group flack disputes. For what it's worth, ads are posted to hire two new reporters at the P-T. The shrunken staff has been noticed by the mayor of Long Beach.

Add Grobaty: He began at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy. He was later feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and, from 1991, columnist. When some colleagues fled the P-T in 2013 for the short-lived Long Beach Register, he called them traitors in print. But now, he says, "To paraphrase an old coworker, it was a great 35 years; Unfortunately, I was there for 42." He said last week on KPCC that the three P-T refugees will help plan the new outlet and hire about 12 people to start. "Risk is better than hopelessness," he said.

Here's a story on all this from The Beachcomber.

Elsa Ramon leaves CBSLA

elsa-ramon-ken-koller.jpgKCAL9 anchor-reporter Elsa Ramon said goodbye on the air last week. She can't reveal where she is going yet, but tweets that she will be staying in the LA area. "Can't say yet, but i'm very excited and I'll let you know very soon," she said in a tweet on Friday. She tweeted the photo above by the station's Ken Koller. "Thanks to @code20photog for capturing the very moment I finished my last report at @CBSLA."

Another KCAL regular, Andrea Fujii, left earlier this year for New York.

Harvey Weinstein charged in NYC

This was a long time coming for a lot of women in Hollywood and the people who love them. Weinstein's negotiated surrender to the NYPD and perp walk into court for his first appearance before a judge was carried live across the U.S. news media. The Pulitzers re-tweeted the prize-winning reporting by Ronan Farrow, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor that brought the Weinstein scandals to light. Farrow also posted a Friday piece headlined behind the scenes of Weinstein's arrest at the New Yorker.

Tronc off in Europe

Every big U.S. news website seemed ready for last week's long-planned arrival of the new Europe rules for web privacy — but not Tronc. As of May 25, readers in Europe were blocked from the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other sites. Which means, among other consequences, that correspondents from those papers can't even see their own work.

"Tronc had $15 million to pay Michael Ferro for consulting, yet nothing to prepare for the European privacy law two years in the making," tweeted Shashank Bengali, the LAT's South Asia correspondent.

LAT scores big hit on USC

usc-sign.jpgThat didn't take long. The first LA Times story about abuses by the USC student gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, and what USC leaders knew, ran May 16. Just before it posted, USC president C.L. Max Nikias sent a letter to the campus community trying to pre-apologize and to spin the story. Didn't work!

The official campus line was that everyone had full confidence in Nikias, but as I said on last Tuesday's LA Observed segment on KCRW, that was only as good as the university's trustees not getting too rattled by further disclosures. On May 23, Times reporters Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton (Paul Pringle also had a byline on the opener) detailed how women had been reporting apparent misconduct by Tyndall for years. He was finally removed in 2016, but later given a lot of money to go away quietly. More than 200 professors and the academic senate called on Nikias to go. On Thursday, the trustees were still publicly behind Nikias. On Friday, he was on the way out. The board said he would be stepping down.

Times city editor Hector Becerra:

The Nikias exit story was broken by Jennifer Medina of the New York Times bureau here, who quoted a statement from trustee Rick Caruso, the SoCal shopping center magnate. Medina has her own USC connection: she was editor of the Daily Trojan during her time on campus. USC Annenberg's Gabe Kahn didn't like it:

LA Times and El Segundo

lat-sign-rendering-fb.jpgThe sale of the Los Angeles Times to Patrick Soon-Shiong still hasn't actually happened, but plans are moving ahead for the Times to vacate downtown Los Angeles (the lease is apparently up at the end of June) and move to one of Soon-Shiong's office buildings in El Segundo. Times columnist Robin Abcarian posted renderings of signage that the city of El Segundo has been asked to approve. It's news in the Daily Breeze.

Abcarian is a little weak on her LAX history though. With one of the images, she refers to a visible Spanish-style building as a church. Fellow journalist Tom Hoffarth pointed out on Twitter, that's the old LAX terminal — a building the Times has reported on many times.

Meanwhile, Soon-Shiong hasn't tweeted about the Times since February or about anything else since March 7. There was some chatter that the deal would close over the Memorial Day holiday, but I guess it didn't happen.

KPCC's plans for LAist begin to firm up

Sounds like KPCC is going to shift a lot of its local web content over to LAist when the blog returns to active status. You'll remember, KPCC took over the shuttered LAist in February after donors put up money to keep a few former Gothamist blogs alive. The commitment by KPCC apparently didn't extend to much operating budget, however. There's currently a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a new LAist.

We got lucky when a couple of generous donors helped KPCC save LAist. But that was just enough to buy the website — not enough to run it.

We’ll use your pledges to help pay for writers, photographers, illustrators. We’ll use it to pay for gear, parking and other expenses needed to get LAist up and running again. We’ll use it to make sure we’re supporting local journalists.

The return of LAist will mean some changes to the KPCC website, which has become a pretty useful one-stop place for local news that is much easier to access or search than, say, the deeply troubled LA Times website. If you're a fan of the KPCC site, you may not like this. KPCC chief content officer Kristen Muller explains:

LAist was a beloved, local news source when it shut down last fall. It was a place Angelenos went to find stories that informed, inspired and connected us to one another.

KPCC is dedicated to reviving it and providing that same service. From now on, you’ll find our written, local reporting published over there.

The site will be entirely devoted to life in and around L.A.: the good (sunshine!), the bad (traffic!) and all that’s in between (politics, housing, education, art, food, events and so much more).


So what’s happening on For years, this site has been the place to find the latest in local, national and international news. That stays the same.... we’re retooling the website to be a better reflection of what’s happening on our air — from NPR stories to segments from our locally produced shows like AirTalk with Larry Mantle, The Frame and Take Two. The livestream will stay put.

A visit with Linda Ronstadt

ronstadt-tucson.jpgLinda Ronstadt is heading out for a small speaking tour in Northern California in September and was already in her hometown of Tucson. But she sold her place there, and pretty much stays home in San Francisco, where her two grown children have a house in the back. For a San Francisco Chronicle piece, she invited music critic Joel Selvin over for an update on how it's going living with the Parkinson's that took her singing voice. At age 71 she does go out, "but I have to be very selective about what I do.” No pictures allowed. Excerpt:

This morning, her short, reddish hair hasn’t seen a brush yet. Ronstadt is curled up under a blanket on a lounge in her Sea Cliff living room, a scarf around her neck...

In many cases, drug treatment can help resolve symptoms, but not for Ronstadt. She is among the 1 in 5 Parkinson’s victims who do not benefit from increased dopamine, she says.

Parkinson’s has reduced her gorgeous, glorious voice to a monochromatic near-whisper.She speaks in a tiny spray, gushes of words and sentences with almost no expression. Singing has long been out of the question.

“Brushing my teeth is the hardest thing I do all day,” she admits. “I’m like a window washer without a safety harness.”

Her one-year-old cat, Tucker, was rescued from a Los Angeles freeway as a kitten.

2013: Linda Ronstadt says Parkinson's has taken her singing voice, Linda Ronstadt talks music, Mexico and Parkinson's

Trump versus the truth

The New York Times is out with a Monday night piece analyzing how Donald Trump uses made-up conspiracy theories about secret plots (the latest being Spygate) to confuse and erode trust. He's been doing it for a long time to "distinct effect," say the reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman.
As a candidate, Donald J. Trump claimed that the United States government had known in advance about the Sept. 11 attacks. He hinted that Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice who died in his sleep two years ago, had been murdered. And for years, Mr. Trump pushed the notion that President Barack Obama had been born in Kenya rather than Honolulu, making him ineligible for the presidency.

None of that was true.

Last week, President Trump promoted new, unconfirmed accusations to suit his political narrative: that a “criminal deep state” element within Mr. Obama’s government planted a spy deep inside his presidential campaign to help his rival, Hillary Clinton, win — a scheme he branded “Spygate.” It was the latest indication that a president who has for decades trafficked in conspiracy theories has brought them from the fringes of public discourse to the Oval Office.

This weekend, Brian Stelter of CNN addressed the bizarre social media pressure campaign against White House reporters, especially Haberman, to make them use the word "lie" in every instance in which President Trump says something untrue. "President Trump is a liar. This has been well-documented. He misleads the public constantly," Stelter says. "But: Not everything he says is a lie. I think we need to keep distinguishing between deflections, exaggerations and straight up lies." I'll add this: Haberman should keep pumping out scoops about Trump and ignore the semantic games of activists and trolls.

The whopper for the holiday weekend was when Trump railed at the New York Times for having no source for a Korea story — when the source was actually a White House official who gave an authorized background briefing to many reporters, including those from the NYT.

Daniel Dale, Washington bureau chief of The Star in Canada, publishes an updated list of false claims by Trump — and also gets shit for not using "lies" every time. He comments: "I also don’t think that 'lie' should be the word we use for every one of his inaccurate statements. And I don’t think reporters should be blamed or shamed for choosing different words where appropriate."

With Trump you don't know on a given non-fact if it's dishonesty, disinformation or incompetence, or a mix, since all three are present in abundance in this Oval Office. Trump also bullshitted the naval academy graduates, throwing out multiple false claims to make himself look good. Talk about disrespecting the military. Axios' Mike Allen, who often bends over backward to give Trump equal time, wrote last week that "Trump's language is getting darker and more ominous, suggesting the FBI's activities during the 2016 elections were 'bigger than Watergate,' and yesterday claiming a 'criminal deep state' conspiracy to get him."

This adapts a classic Trump technique that he used during the campaign: constant, withering criticism combined with brutal belittling, in an effort to create tectonic shifts in voter attitudes....

Boldface quote: Lesley Stahl of CBS said recently that Trump once told her he attacks the press for the pretty obvious reason: "I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you."

Media notes

News anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer of Greenville, South Carolina TV station WYFF died Monday when a tree fell on their SUV when they were out covering the area's heavy rains. WYFF announced the news on air.

TMZ founder Harvey Levin is in Trump's pocket, says a new piece from the Daily Beast. It says that TMZ covered for Trump repeatedly after the Access Hollywood tape hit, and became a tool for the Trump campaign: "the result of a cozy relationship between TMZ founder and boss Harvey Levin and Trump, who called each other throughout the campaign, seven sources told The Daily Beast."... Trump deputy (or "right-hand troll") Stephen Miller is profiled by McKay Coppins in The Atlantic.

Elon Musk thinks the reason a non-profit news outlet investigated the lack of safety around his auto operations is pressure from rival automakers and to get money from clicks. Nate Silver analyzes: "This is the sort of spectacularly bad take you write when you have no fucking idea what you're talking about but want to sound like you do." It's easy to dismiss Musk's sputterings as harmless, but journalist Erin Biba writes for the Daily Beast that she's been besieged by angry MuskBros — "mostly young, mostly white, almost entirely men" — ever since she dinged Musk for last week's clueless media rant. They "make it their mission to descend on women who criticize Musk, and tear them to pieces. I know, because it has happened to me." How about this Slate headline: Elon Musk’s Crusade for Media Accountability Lasted Three Whole Days Before He Recommended a News Site Affiliated With a Suspected Sex Cult.

Deirdre Edgar, the LA Times' Reader Representative since 2010, has left the Times "for a new career challenge outside of journalism in a new city," per the newsroom email from editor Jim Kirk. They are looking for another: "The ideal candidate will be dedicated both to the newsroom and to the principle that as the region’s largest and most influential news organization, we have a responsibility to be fair and open to our readers. Those qualities are what we seek most as we begin our search to fill this important position, which reports to me."... Eli Stokols, formerly of Politico and the WSJ, joined the LAT White House beat.

Michelle Cottle jumps from The Atlantic to join the NYT editorial board as lead editorial writer for national politics... arnoldharley.jpgCharlie LeDuff, the former New York Times correspondent in Los Angeles and elsewhere, is now working at a hot dog place in Detroit, where he used to be a TV news feature columnist (and Detroit News columnist.) It was LeDuff who rode a Harley up PCH with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for an NYT story.... HBO’s "John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls" was reviewed in the LAT by Lorraine Ali.

Capital & Main is running a 10-day series on homelessness "through the eyes of the homeless – specifically, by seeing how they meet basic everyday needs." Pieces by Steven Mikulan, Gustavo Arellano, Judith Lewis Mernit, Dean Kuipers and others.... A little backstory on Mike McPhate, the ex-NYT journalist who started and runs the California Sun daily newsletter... A look back at (MORE), the 1970s journalism review... The SoCal News Group is also looking to hire reporters to cover the Lakers and the Anaheim Ducks... Politico is looking for a new California Playbook reporter to succeed David Siders.

No comment: A story at National Geographic Travel with the breathless headline 10 Natural Wonders Near Los Angeles actually featured six maintained gardens, two mansions and the man-made Hollywood Reservoir.

Media people doing stuff

Jessica Garrison, the LAT City Hall alum who is now a senior investigative reporter at BuzzFeed in San Francisco, had a powerful story on The Life Of One Of America’s Bloodiest Hitmen... Joe Mathews column for Zocalo: "Austin Beutner has gone straight to the top in no fewer than four fields in the City of Angels—without having to pay his dues in any of them."... Erin Aubry Kaplan in the NYT Opinion section, Mourning My White Husband in the Age of Trump... Amanda Fortini is in California Sunday Magazine with "What Happened in Vegas: The days, weeks, and months after the worst mass shooting in modern American history."... Amy Wallace in GQ profiles Kate McKinnon as "comedy's no-so-secret weapon."

Our columnist Bill Boyarsky is in conversation with UCLA's Michael Dukakis in UCLA Blueprint magazine... NYT (and former LAT) editor Dean Baquet was on Steven Colbert talking Trump, the news and more:

Sterling Brown and the tasing of the black American dream by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in The Guardian... Andy Bechtel writes about being a 40-year-old intern at the LA Times ten years ago... The NYT reviews Gary Krist's new book, “The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles”... LA freelancer Liesl Bradner is author of the new "Snapdragon: the World War ll Exploits of Darby's Ranger & Combat Photographer Phil Stern." Getty Images has put up a selection of the photos.... From Chris Lukather: "A Birdhouse in Paradise: William Mellenthin and the San Fernando Valley Ranch Homes"...James Nash, the former City Hall reporter, was back in town to cover marijuana for the USA Today network.

On Instagram: KCAL weathercaster Evelyn Taft often does an Instagram Live session during the news — it seems to mostly be men ogling her applying lipstick and makeup and asking if she's married. When one of the guys asked recently if she is pregnant, Taft had a little rant: "No I am not pregnant," she said, adding that she has recently had two kids, "back to back." So if her tummy is not flat enough that's why: "It's just biology."

LinkedIn updates: Stephanie O'Neill is now the West Coast radio editor for California Healthline/KHN, and another former KPCC staffer, Ben Bergman, is senior development producer at Gimlet Media in Brooklyn... Lisa Richardson is senior executive at Pivot Hound Communications... Also: Eli Horowitz moved from tech reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal to join the LA Sparks as the team's director of public relations and communications... Roy Rivenburg has a Trump vs California op-ed in the Sacramento Bee... Kay Hwangbo writes about the swing dance revival in Pasadena Weekly... Retired NYT feature writer N.R. Kleinfield writes about 40 years of newspaper stories... And: Sounds like Fox 11's Phil Shuman picked up a parking ticket at Runyon Canyon on Monday.

Awards: The finalists for the year's LA Press Cub awards are posted. Winners will be announced at the June 24 dinner, when awards will also go to Dolly Parton, Lester Holt of NBC, Kimi Yoshino of the LA Times and Saudi Arabian writer and blogger Raif Badawi.

News obits: Bob Fuss, a former radio reporter for UPI in Los Angeles, then for years a CBS News reporter in Washington, died at age 64. He used crutches his entire life... Frank McCullough, managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Examiner and Sacramento Bee, died in Santa Rosa at age 98... Josh Greenfeld, who shared an Oscar nomination with Paul Mazursky for his debut screenplay, "Harry and Tonto," died at 90.

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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LA Observed Notes: After the holiday weekend edition