LA Observed Notes: Long Beach, LAist, Soon-Shiong and much more

castle-birds-srr.jpgMini-golfers at the city's Sherman Oaks Castle Park are warned. No refunds! LA Observed photo by Sean Roderick.

Our occasional roundup of news, notes and chatter. Between posts you can keep up with LA Observed on Twitter. We're also on Instagram.

Journalist of the year awards


The Los Angeles Press Club held its annual awards marathon on Sunday night at the Millennium Biltmore downtown. Among those honored in the pre-announced awards are NBC's Lester Holt, Dolly Parton, LA Times business editor Kimi Yoshino and Saudi Arabian writer and blogger Raif Badawi. Winners will be posted by the club on Monday, hopefully.

Update: The Journalist of the Year category winners are Thomas Curwen of the LA Times, Jon Regardie of the Downtown News, Nic Cha Kim of KCET, Deepa Fernandes in the radio category, Norberto Santana Jr. of the Voice of OC, Ramin Setoodeh of Variety, Aitana Vargas of HITN TV-HispanoPost-DirecTV Sports, and Marcus Yam, the LA Times photographer. Those are considered the club's top awards, but there are dozens of others. All winners.

Long Beach media move begins

The new Long Beach media venture began news reporting last week. The effort is under the name of the Long Beach Post, an existing news operation which was acquired and expanded with former staffers from the Press-Telegram, the daily SoCal News Group paper in Long Beach. New publisher David Sommers addressed the readers:

For the past few months, a group of journalists and concerned local residents have collaborated behind the scenes to rethink how Long Beach — the second-largest city in Los Angeles County — should be covered. We believe Long Beach, and every community, deserves a publication that is essential to its readers, a publication that holds leaders to account, one that is locally owned and operated, one where profits are reinvested in the growth of the publication and the community, one that binds the city together and calls its residents to action.

Under new ownership, the Long Beach Post will be quadrupling its editorial and business staff to employ the largest newsroom in the city. You’ll recognize some of our additions: Tim Grobaty, who’s been writing columns about Long Beach for 42 years, and Brian Addison, a former editor at the Post and an award-winning writer based in Long Beach. We are also honored that the entire existing Post team — Dennis Dean, Stephanie Rivera, Asia Morris, and Jason Ruiz — has agreed to stay with the publication to continue its excellent work, and join us on this journey.

More staff additions will be announced in coming months, each bringing incredible talent and energy to this growing newsroom as we kick off a new era in Long Beach journalism.


Though the partners of Pacific6 have invested in this new venture and will guide financial sustainability and strategic vision for Pacific Community Media, I want to make clear: They will not have any say in news and editorial decisions or coverage. We are grateful for their support and investment in expanding local news, and all of us have agreed to an ethical framework that will provide the necessary separation to maintain the public’s trust. We will cover Pacific6’s investments in the city as we would any other person or business.

As of today, this is the largest media organization in Long Beach. Our work and our words must be unimpeachable. Nothing is more important to the Long Beach Post than our integrity — our legitimacy comes from you, our readers, and from the community we serve.

Sommers disclosed that Shaun Lumachi, the late co-founder of the original Long Beach Post, was the best man at his wedding. The Post, by the way, is looking for paid subscribers.

Seth McFarlane, KPCC and LAist

Big news in the local media last week when Seth McFarlane, creator of the TV hit "Family Guy," responded to Fox News' ideological attacks on real news by donating $2 million to NPR and $500,000 to KPCC here. The national gift is meant to support NPR’s Collaborative Journalism Network, while the KPCC donation will be used to challenge more subscriptions. "We are deeply moved by Seth’s generous contribution to Southern California Public Radio, KPCC and NPR,” Bill Davis, president and CEO of SCPR, told Deadline. “It is this local/national partnership that is the heart of our shared public service mission and we are committed to more fully realizing that mission thanks to this gift and his challenge for others to join us.”

Last week also saw the return of LAist, the former Gothamist blog that was shuttered last year, then acquired by KPCC thanks to an anonymous donor. The blog resumed posting as an arm of the KPCC newsroom, with a blog staff led by senior editor Melissa Leu and support from the radio station's deeper bench of journalists. "Now, let’s have some fun. And also hold power to account. Because journalism," posted KPCC's Kristen Muller. "Los Angeles deserves a site that accurately reflects its diversity, its complexities and its challenges. From inside the deepest pothole to the top of Mt. Wilson and beyond, we are LAist."

One of the first stories: KPCC reporter Priska Neely's personal piece about infant mortality among African American women — and in her family.

The Athletic arrives in Los Angeles

If you are a serious sports fan and you haven't yet subscribed to The Athletic, it's fairly likely that you will someday. The site in the past year or so has grabbed up many of the top reporters on baseball, football, basketball, hockey and other sports. These days it's where you can find Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal on baseball, Richard Deitsch on the media, and big names in sports I don't read much about. Now The Athletic is swarming Los Angeles as it has other cities, with a team that includes Pedro Moura and Steve Dilbeck on baseball, Brian and Andy Kamenetzky on basketball (mostly), and a deep hockey roster led by Lisa Dillman, Eric Stephens and Joshua Cooper.

It's tradition for new writers to pen a piece explaining why they have to chosen work behind The Athletic's paywall. Here's from Brian Kamenetzky's:

There​ are the practical answers. The​ family to feed,​ the bills to pay,​ and all that.​​ There’s the reality that jobs in sports media are hard to find, so when smart people doing good work offer to pay you for yours, it’s tough to say no. There’s the opportunity to get in, if not on the ground floor, somewhere close enough to the lobby to feel like you’re still part of the building’s construction, with the chance to test drive interesting and creative ideas.

But honestly, why I “joined The Athletic” is less important than why I think The Athletic matters, and why, assuming you value quality content and believe the site produces it, you should consider joining, too.

The subscription-based model is important. Not just for the reader experience — though it’s undoubtedly nice not to deal with ad clutter — but for what it represents. Quality journalism costs money. For too long media outlets gave us the product online for free, and we became too comfortable letting someone else (i.e. advertisers) pay for it. It never worked well, and now it doesn’t work at all.


Hockey has been part of my life since my father became the third employee hired for the Minnesota North Stars’ front-office staff. As a child, I cried after tough playoff losses to the St. Louis Blues and may well have hit every hot chocolate machine in the Twin Cities area while watching my brother play youth hockey.

At the Times, I covered the Kings’ two Stanley Cup championships, in 2012 and 2014. With Times colleague, business reporter James Bates, we worked on a series detailing the financial empire and subsequent fall of Kings owner Bruce McNall. The boxes of legal documents connected with the complex bankruptcy case and federal criminal investigation into his financial dealings filled my basement for years.....

The buy-in from general managers and others in hockey operations around the NHL has been almost immediate and took a significant leap forward when The Athletic expanded across Canada in the fall. General managers and team officials were reading and reacting and wanting more, wondering when The Athletic would expand into Los Angeles.

The answer is today. I hope you will join us.

But yeah, you have to pay to read it.

LA Times gets a moving date

pss-on-pbs.jpgNew owner Patrick Soon-Shiong spoke to the LA Times newsroom last week and earned applause and warm feelings with his words — a stark contrast to the arrival of the Tronclodytes. He talked in some detail about the new home of the paper in El Segundo, which he says will have a new newsroom, broadcast studio, museum and events center — and suggested that the annual LA Times Festival of Books might move to the El Segundo "campus" from USC. Soon-Shiong said about $150 million will be invested in the Times complex in El Segundo.

In the days since the meeting, staffers said they have been told the move will begin on July 2 and take a few weeks. Soon-Shiong said that the downtown presence that continues will be in the building that houses the Last Bookstore, with room for about 50 people.

New editor Norman Pearlstine, a longtime friend of the late Times editor John Carroll, spoke with CNN's Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources, and Soon-Shiong told Judy Woodruff on PBS "News Hour" last week that it's all about the journalists.

I think the place where we need to find truthful information and journalistic integrity is in the newspapers. But I think we also recognize that we have this problem of where technology has now taken over, where people want news where they want to read it, where they can read it, whenever, wherever they may be, and the digital mobile platform.

I still am of the old school. I still, as I said, love the tactile feel of a physical print and what I call leisurely reading. But we need to adapt and adopt very quickly in real time into this whole new world of digital age.

So, today, I think journalists need to have cross-technology skill sets. They need to podcast. They need to do what I’m doing here, TV interviews, and print. And it’s a very different life for the journalists.

But without journalists giving us good, real investigative reporting, I think we will have lost a lot in terms of these institutions.

Also: The Times has created the new position of Chief Transformation Editor and Creative Director and named Kris Viesselman. She will report to Pearlstine.

Also: Former LA Times senior editors Marty Baron and Dean Baquet together.

Jackie Johnson leaves CBS LA weather team

jackie-johnson-June_18_2018.jpgThe CBS television news duopoly in Studio City put out the word that new mother Jackie Johnson will not be coming back.

"CBS 2 weathercaster Jackie Johnson today [June 18] announced her decision to leave the station after giving birth to her first child, Bridgette, in January. Johnson has provided weather forecasts for the weekday editions of CBS 2 News at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. since April 2010. Prior to that, she spent five-and-a-half years as the weathercaster on sister station KCAL 9’s weeknight 8, 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts."

The release continues:

“It’s bittersweet time for me,” Johnson said. “I’ve been blessed to have had this amazing career with KCBS and KCAL. But right now, my priority is to stay at home and raise our baby girl. I have a new respect for mothering, as it is the hardest but most rewarding job. And I’m loving it! CBS has provided me with such great opportunities, experiences and friendships that I will cherish forever.”

“I’m so very grateful to our viewers. Thank you for your support and kindness over the years. I’m honored that you allowed me into your homes every night and trusted me with your forecasts. Thank you for all of the inquiries about when I will return to TV. I will one day!”

Hope everything is okay.

David Poland departs Movie City News

David Poland has posted countless news items and participated in countless debates and arguments since he began Movie City News in 2002. Last week he announced on The Hot Blog that he's giving all that up to seek a new life as a participant in the Hollywood content machine. He will hang on to his DP/30 video series, which he says has 100,000 subscribers, and MCN goes on without him. He posted a long explanation at the site. Sample:

I never wanted to be a journalist, telling the stories of those who do things. Certainly not a critic, a job I have learned to respect deeply for a very small number of people who take it seriously (not just take themselves seriously).

I became a film critic because Roger Ebert wouldn’t book me on his show while Gene was out unless I called myself a critic. I always considered my ability to break down a film a skill that was useful for other purposes… as part of something else. But when I put on the robe, I quickly found that an illogical amount of power could be had in a role that I have never seen as being as influential as some others do....

I want to keep loving movies. I want to support movies I love. I want to support great filmmakers. And I want to use the experience and knowledge and simple brain power every day that I can in my life.

I want to work hand-in-fist with the executives who I have known and respected for years and for those I do not yet know, finally free to help me get down to the absolute truths of situations glorious and grotesque in order to help them be even better at what they do.

The world is not just made up of movies and filmmakers that I love. I am excited by the idea of solving the puzzle of movies and people that are part of the commerce of movies too. I want to help companies whose work I don’t like figure out how to get people like me to love their work. I want to get down into the blueprints and process documents and find an answer that someone else might not. I want to argue both sides.

IndieWire's Anne Thompson recalls a 2002 meeting between her, Poland, Nikki Finke and Jeffery Wells to talk about a joint online venture to cover Hollywood. They all went their own ways instead. Thompson on Poland:

He’s had a good run. But...

Meanwhile: Longtime movie critic Leonard Maltin announced that he will open his website to "respectful" underrepresented voices one day a week.

Media notes

The New York Times goes deep on the affair between a reporter in her 20s (Ali Watkins, now at the NYT) and a congressional staffer in his 50s (James Wolfe) and how his prosecution and the seizure of her phone and email records by the feds has rattled Washington media.... Conservative writer and columnist Charles Krauthammer only lived a short time after revealing this month that his cancer was terminal. Washington Post obit. Fox News report.

New York Times Trump whisperer Maggie Haberman tweeted the most basic truth about the president's crisis management style, during last week's Trump-created chaos at the border and confusion on Capitol Hill: "He will say whatever he has to say to get through ten-minute increments of time."... Guardian U.S. senior reporter in Texas last week: "Witnessing some of the plea hearings here in McAllen & Brownsville, as fathers and mothers beg federal judges to reunite them with their missing children has been among the most shocking things I've ever seen."

We're still learning the degree to which the National Enquirer functioned as a secret arm of the Donald Trump fake media force. In addition to paying cash to silence Trump accusers, the Washington Post reports, the Enquirer ran stories about Trump past his attorney Michael Cohen before publication.... NPR media reporter David Folkenflik essay on these times: When the White House can't be believed... Male political reporters retweet other dudes 3 times more than their female colleagues, a study finds.... Tronc finally realizes it has a stupid name.

Former LA Times entertainment reporter Scott Collins writes in CJR that "Over the course of 12 years as a reporter and columnist at the Times, I was swamped by a wave that has carried entertainment journalism far away from hard reporting on the industry, and toward such fripperies as snubs and surprises on awards shows, plot twists of dramatic series, and puff profiles." Brutal reaction from some Calendar ex-colleagues on Twitter: "Sorry. The writer of this is full of shit," tweeted Gerrick Kennedy. "How I do? Because I work at the very place he’s talking about."

Days after LA Times reporters Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives and Angel Jennings reported on screwy doings (and ugly water) at the Sativa Los Angeles County Water District, the district's general manager was put on administrative leave. The coverage was the topic of last week's LA Observed segment on KCRW... Fox 11's Laura Diaz rides-along in Rampart with departing LAPD chief Charlie Beck. Watch... Stephen Gee's documentary on the iconic LA architect John Parkinson debuts July 5 on PBS SoCal. There's a free screening on Wednesday at City Hall, one of the buildings Parkinson designed. Trailer... Esquire's Tyler Coates: Liz Phair Taught Me Everything About Being a Grown-Up... Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers and Zlatan Ibrahomovic of the Galaxy are featured naked in the ESPN Body Issue.

Headline of the year?

Media people doing stuff

Ginger Thompson. the former LA Times and New York Times reporter, scored for ProPublica that audio of a separated child crying that may have turned public opinion on the Trump border policy of deporting parents while their children remained in federal custody.... LA Times reporter Ruben Vives on Twitter: "I came to the US from Guatemala to be reunited with my parents. I was 5. It was a traumatizing experience for me so I can only imagine what the young immigrant children must be going through after they were separated from their parents."... Sonia Nazario, the former LA Times Pulitzer winner for documenting a harrowing journey from Central America to the U.S. by a young boy named Enrique, has an NYT op-ed piece arguing there’s a better, cheaper way to handle immigration.... Molly Peterson, the former KPCC environment reporter, is looking for financial backing to continue her reporting on climate change in Los Angeles.... Paulina Chavira, an editor at the New York Times en Español in Mexico City, shamed the the Mexican national futbol team to correct the spelling of the players' names on jerseys... Jose Del Real, the new NYT correspondent in LA, writes about bike activists taking on car culture through the lens of South Los Angeles.

SoCal News Group's Larry Wilson had the first story about the decision to close the Pasadena Museum of California Art.... Bill Plaschke had a nice LAT column on a Pasadena dry cleaners that brought in a TV so workers could watch World Cup matches.... LA Times business editor Kimi Yoshino tweeted that her husband, an Iraqi translator she met while covering the war in Baghdad, became a U.S. citizen.... David Davis on iconic Hawaiian Olympian Duke Kahanamoku for Zocalo... Author Daniel A. Olivas had a NYT op-ed arguing the dystopia is here.

Obituary: Bob Gibson, the Los Angeles Times foreign editor from 1964 to 1983, and later the paper's economics columnist, died Friday at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. He was 89.

Studying Octavia E. Butler

On Friday, Google's top of the page Google Doodle honored Octavia Butler, the late Pasadena science fiction writer. Author and journalist Lynell George is deep into research on Butler's life and she talks about her subject for the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

Lynell George: Look What I Found (Octavia E. Butler, 6-22-2018) from Huntington-USC ICW on Vimeo.

Coverage notes

• Mark Z. Barabak analysis on why LA City Hall is a graveyard for gubernatorial ambitions - LA Times

• John Mack obituaries in the LA Times and from City News Service.

• 6 fascinating facts about California: serenity and sourdough bread edition - California Sun

• AP fact check: Trump’s skewed claims on immigration, economy - Associated Press

• Historical perspective:

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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