A tip of the Tabloid Baby hat to the informational vermin!
The LA Times is backtracking on the Villaraigosalinasgate scandal, with an astounding column yesterday by media columnist Tim Rutten that attacked the "informational vermin" who whip the LA Times' lazy ass on hot city stories, and yearned wistfully for the good old days when the LA Times had a vice grip on local media coverage and could cover up mayoral scandals, even when they imapcted city business, as when the wife of Villaraigosa predecessor James Hahn split on the family, leaving him to leave work early every day to care for his kids in San Pedro:
When it comes to reporting on politics and elected officials, distinguishing between what is properly private and what is necessarily public becomes more difficult all the time.Rutten's pomposity is either the laugh of the newsroom or the chilling harbinger of the new edict. And the temperature drops a few more digits with our pal Steve Lopez, the prize catch journo at the Times who's able to look at the company town ith an outsider's eye and allowed to riff away from the pack, returning to the irrelevency beat today with a column on "An ER doc with surf in his blood."
It's easy to blame the news media for this — for all the obvious reasons. They include an increasing number of editors willing to take their cue from journalism's lowest common denominator, the gossip sheets, whether online or on slick paper, that continue to proliferate like informational vermin. By its very nature, gossip does not respect the distinction between public and private because it doesn't acknowledge the existence of such a dichotomy...
Clearly, the mayor would not be in the fix he's in— and it's quite a fix— without the emergence of a vigorous online media that is reshaping the city's political landscape. Los Angeles mayors Sam Yorty and Tom Bradley were married men who had affairs, which never got into the papers because, even if City Hall reporters had been inclined to pursue the story, it would have been virtually impossible to make it conform to the standards their editors enforced. When James K. Hahn's marriage broke up in the middle of his term, there hardly was a ripple in the local press.
Depending on how you look at things, we're witnessing the digital execution of either decency and discretion or of a culture of excessive deference to power. Take your pick, though the truth probably resides, as it so often does, somewhere in between...
Sure, the piece is probably an evergreen saved for a Sunday, but he should have insisted they shelved it with an update-- because the Villaraigosa story is developing by the hour. The lack of intensity and focus is similar to his gradual easing off of Cardinal Mahony during the molestation coverup scandal. Had he continued to snarl and tear and rip at the trouser leg, the corrupt politician may have been dethroned-- and Lopez would probaby have gotten the Pulitzer.
It's clear the Times has an agenda here, and doesn't want the facts to lead to Villaraigosa's downfall or have an effect Hillary Clinton's chances for the White House.
Meanwhile, for full, exciting coverage of the City Hall scandal, the Pulitzer-deserving journalist is Luke Ford, a journo whose focus borders on the autistic and whose website is the new "paper of record" for the most portentous story in Los Angeles and possibly American politics.