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Two academics on the LAT

Regarding Kurt Andersen, the Los Angeles Times and LA Observed's own Bruce Feirstein...

• I forward the following from a highly respected journalist in New York:

Andersen, seeking to recover the "star" status he once had in parochial New York, now writes columns that are wildly foolish and over the top -- just to get brief spurts of attention.

The LATimes should continue its Washington and national coverage -- AND cover its own city and region aggressively. The latter might increase local circulation. The NYTimes suffers from the same local weakness in its coverage...It used to put newbies on the street, to do police, neighborhood, grass-roots reporting.

Anyway, Andersen is just a gas-bagger now. Not to be paid attention to.

I would add that your Hancock Park contributor is another one of those gasbags. I'd bet odds that he does not even read the Times seriously. For him to be proud of having fed garbage to Anderson tells me a lot more about his own editorial judgment than I need to know. Sure, we can all find things to pick on at the LAT. The Times needs editors who can edit and remember they're working for a newspaper and not a magazine. Even the New Yorker would not inflict such length on its readers. I hate the Op-Ed page over which Dean Baquet has no control. I'm not overwhelmed by the Calendar section. I wish both Plaschke and Simers would take a hike. Who can read Steve Lopez and Patt Morrison and not be thankful that we can read them regularly in Los Angeles? I look for the day when the LAT Book Review will be as substantial as the NYT's. As the city with the largest book-reading public in the nation, we deserve nothing less.

The Los Angeles Times' reporting on King Drew, on immigration, on Wal-Mart, Ramparts arguably was worthwhile journalism. Its national and international coverage on the Bush Administration, on Iraq, national security, Russia, Mexico and China that I evaluated as a Pulitzer judge a few years ago was as good as and even better than the NYT which I read carefully every day. The LAT has had some excellent reporters and editors in its stable for a long time. They do not deserve the inferential criticism that the hacks from Hancock Park and Manhattan have chosen to dish out in order to bring attention to themselves.

Murray Fromson
Professor Emeritus
USC Annenberg/School of Journalism


• That was a great spanking, and I agree on every single point. I'm the only faculty member I know who reads the LAT, except for one emeritus prof in the math department -- even the president of the college gets only the NYT & WSJ.

And my blood pressure went up 10 points when I read Richard Fausset's retort, specifically because his "Hey, at least we aren't Cocke County (Tennessee)" piece last week not only was utterly irrelevant and out of place but also appeared to be talking about the Cocke County of 25 years ago (I grew up the next county). As I wrote on my own blog, "I still wonder how the reporter got hold of Cocke County in his search for a bone to shake. I half suspect that he was riffling through old newspaper archives, partly because this article sounded like it was written in the mid-1970s -- no mention of crystal meth (even though Cocke County could go head-to-head with Riverside and possibly even win), or the large influx of Latino laborers (who now control the mountain cock-fighting venues), or anything else 21st century. Hmm, maybe I read this exact same article 30 years ago..."

Meg Worley
Assistant Professor of English
Pomona College


• Like every journalist in LA, I criticize on The Times, though I found their coverage of the 2000 election, especially Florida, was far better than the NY Times, as has been their ongoing coverage and take on Iraq.

Still, the world has changed, and Kurt Andersen is right. Nobody needs the LA Times to report the world and (especially) the financial markets anymore. You get it better online.

Like the United States itself, the L.A. Times should pull its troops home, and beef up local news and regional business coverage. Though it covers Hollywood enough, there is a Wall Street West, a huge real estate industry, a manufacturing industry which still employs more than a
half-million in LA County, and gigantic ports and infrastructural problems here. Tech, bio-tech, retailers, importers, exporters ­ you get the point.

Andersen, a New Yorker without a clue to our economy, was wrong to suggest the LA Times cover Hollywood more. There is so much more here than Tinseltown ­ just get out a business-to-business yellow pages, and start reading. As for Wall Street, the LA Times could interview a different but local money manager every day of the week ­ why do they quote people in New York?

One can only hope the LA Times will become locally owned again, and perhaps survive as a dividend-paying public company. In a mature industry, the LA Times should pay a steady dividend, but not be required to post materially higher profits every year — an old queen attempting to play the role a growth hottie. The franchise is actually highly profitable, and a dividend would be easily handled.

And, like every other journalist in L.A., I sit here at my desk pontificating about the Times, and it matters not. We all must wait to see what happens next.

Benjamin Mark Cole

Here are earlier reactions to the Andersen piece.

November 2, 2006 10:04 AM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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