Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CalAware: Starving Dailies Leave the Powerful Unwatched

Yesterday I posted some observations on the collapse of the daily papers and how the lack of strong press oversight could make government here in L.A. County even less responsive to the desires of the voters than it is now. This morning I received a report from the always excellent CalAware on just that issue. (You really need to get on their email list.) I am going to quote from it verbatim here.


The latest and starkest California casualty to the business collapse of the regional press giants is the once great Los Angeles Times itself. While a lot is being written (and should be) about the cascading shrinkage, bankruptcy and even closure of daily newspapers, and a lot debated about whether the papers' Internet nemesis can or should be a solution as well, less is noted about the impact of the crisis on daily journalism's self-proclaimed role as a monitor of the mighty.

One sobering example: Times columnist James Rainey comments on the fact that meetings of the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, a polity with a greater population than all but the largest seven states and an economy to match, are covered by just four reporters.

"Only a handful of states have budgets bigger than Los Angeles County's. NASA spends 25% less in a year. The county's welfare and foster care departments serve the neediest, whose ranks will only grow as the economy staggers ... And the county's purse strings are controlled by just five politicians, the Board of Supervisors, whose powerful incumbency means they almost never face serious reelection challenges ... Back in my day, as many as a dozen full-time reporters walked this beat, filling the row of cramped, glass-walled cubicles on the dimly lit fourth floor just above the supervisors meeting room. The Times had at least half a dozen other reporters at its downtown mother ship, digging deep into city and county government.) All these reporters competed for scoops and broke big stories: about the cut-rate leases granted to developers of county-owned Marina Del Ray, about inflated pensions for the supervisors, about lavish spending on chauffeured limousines and scandals in county departments. Now most of these glass-walled offices might as well be museum cases -- desks, faxes and notepads left behind. Like people got out in a hurry."  

Like I said yesterday, we're pretty much on our own now.

Here is an example of the kinds of things that we won't see much of from the Los Angeles Times anymore. 


Bruce W. McClendon, the chief land use planner for Los Angeles County, was fired Friday by the county's chief executive. McClendon said he was called to a meeting with William T. Fujioka and told he was terminated from his $191,028-a-year job as head of the Department of Regional Planning. Security officers later escorted him out of the building.

McClendon, reached by telephone, said he believed he had been fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on county supervisors' aides. He said he had given Fujioka information that showed the aides to the county supervisors routinely sough to improperly influence decisions on whether to permit development plans. "It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it," said McClandon, 62. He said his meetings with Fujioka in recent weeks made it clear that he was likely to be fired. He said he recently began consulting with attorneys in preparation for filing a whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit.

Interesting. Aides to County Supervisors like Mike Antonovich and Gloria Molina are making backdoor deals with developers, and they fire the guy who reported it? Sure, no reason why we need to know anything about that.

Oh, and one other thought. LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley should be investigating this shocking ethical lapse quite thoroughly, right? Then again, isn't it the LA County Board of Supervisors that controls Fightin' Steve's budget? Funny how it all works. There hasn't been a single story about this matter printed anywhere since the article I quoted from above.

32 comments:

  1. Sir Eric?
    Is there ANYTHING in newspapers nowadays that can't be found on the internet?
    I never read newspapers anymore, I never go to libraries, I never even use a phone book, because I have been able to find anything I want to know online.

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  2. This is an issue all over the United States. When a big communications company bought up so many radio stations out west, and scheduled canned content, there was no one to report on a local disaster in a small town.
    Is the PSN still located in Pasadena? Heard they moved offices...

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  3. Much of what can be found on the internet comes from newspapers, news services such as Associated Press, and magazines. The irony being that as the internet puts the dailies out of business they lose the source of much of their content. Will on-line news sources begin to hire the kinds of staffs that we used to see at newspapers? I doubt it. Unfortunately the internet monster is largely parasitic in that way, and once it has devoured its host it will be content to print whatever remains.

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  4. Just a tad better than the newspapers.....the internet information is about 50% true, 50% fallacious.
    55% of the people in America do not know how to distinquish truth from non-truth.

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  5. From Eric Alterman in the New Yorker:
    "It is impossible not to wonder what will become of not just news but democracy itself, in a world in which we can no longer depend on newspapers to invest their unmatched resources and professional pride in helping the rest of us to learn, however imperfectly, what we need to know."

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  6. Check out Jeff Chester and Center for Digital Democracy - online, of course.

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  7. To 7:01 a.m. - The company is Clear Channel Communications, which owns all six radio stations in North Dakota - a tornado went through a town and since content was pre-recorded or provided by remote talent, could not provide an emergency alert. I think North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan has been active against media monopolies on a national level.
    To Curly - you have a good point there. Somehow, I think the citizens will struggle through with a combination of radio, newspapers and internet, but they will have to continue to fight for and defend all access to information.

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  8. I've have said this before about how corruption in politics works its way up (from local to state to nationa), it's also true about the news. The small papers fail to cover the corruption at a local level, just like they fail to cover it at a national level because the corporate owners of nearly all news media are hand in glove with the people they're supposed to be monitoring--the politicians, or as you rightly call them, The Mighty. It's all about self-interest and friends helping friends. The economy isn't helping, but this has more to do with the conglomerates than it does with recession. Where do you go to find independent news and commentary? The blogs? Why? Because nobody owns them. Remember the second word in the name Newspaper Business.

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  9. The internet is not necessarily "putting" newspapers out of business. Simultaneously, newspaper execs are cutting seasoned and "expensive" staff and ad revenue is declining. Also, young people in general are not getting their news from newspapers. I read that in San Diego, many reporters released from newspapers for cost reasons are gathering to put out a blog - as Roia says, it is inexpensive.

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  10. In the good old days, there were morning and afternoon editions! Speaking of newspapers, the Mountain Views "Observer" is online today, weirdly dated January 31 (is this February 4?) and, as politicians are wont to wrap themselves in the flag, the MV "O" publisher is fronting herself with boy scouts, as in the front page photo of an innocent troop's visit to the hallowed halls of aforesaid newspaper.
    From the National Council of Boy Scouts of America, here is the Scout Law under Trustworthy:
    "A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his conduct. people can depend on him."

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  11. Next week's edition should feature Jesus somewhere in its pages... then Nelson Mandela, Gandhi...

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  12. 10:56 ANON:
    Don't forget to also feature "algore"

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  13. Really, the newspaper should change its name to Downtown Dirt Gazette.

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  14. Hey, I like that 11:06......send Harriet an email.

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  15. i am flubbergasted fershizzle at someone using children to purify their perfidy
    like some ancient form of sacrifice

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  16. Ah, another great con job - on the scouts!

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  17. Anon @ 9:57, great quote.
    We're stepping into new paradigms, but old truths hold:
    Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
    Thomas Jefferson

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  18. Susan hiding behind such hallowed institutions as the Cub Scouts is just so typical of people like herself. What was that Dr. Johnson said about "the last refuge of a scoundrel?" Next I expect to see her pulled around Kersting Court in a little red wagon dressed like the Statue of Liberty. I wonder if her little speech on "how news is shared" included a little side trip through her ruthlessly partisan fib-a-thon during last April's elections?

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  19. Friday should prove to be an interesting day in court for Susan. Wonder what she will say.

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  20. 1:13 PM: Nothing true I suspect.

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  21. During last April's election, the MV "O" didn't interview two city council candidates at all. A third city council candidate, Enid Joffe, had a "weekly" column in the newspaper during the campaign. Bart Doyle's assistant Karma Bell, candidate for City Clerk, received gushing coverage while Nancy Shollenberger, who won as City Clerk, was treated like a grandma who should retire, and her ethics were questioned as well by Henderson's acolyte and boot-licker, Dean Lee.
    What interests me most at this time are the people supporting this shit and why they think it somehow advances their standing in this world.

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  22. That is interesting, Neil.
    You would think all these lib loons who write for her "paper" would draw the line at Susan practicing using slave labor.......she owes her housekeeper $700 and when the lady calls and asks for the money....Susan says "ME NO MONEY" What a racist pos this Henderson is.
    This really bothers most of the posters on this board.....why do these Henderson "groupies" put up with this.
    Unreal.

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  23. Anybody check out this line on the front page of "Observer" distributed today? "The Skilled Nursing Center, once Sierra Madre's hospital, is a boarded up eyesore that has residents concerned. It has recently become another gathering point for day laborers." Sounds to me like this woman has a serious problem with Hispanics.

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  24. Harriet Susan Henderson is a racist, and a very sadistic mean spirited one at that.
    That moron who writes columns in her paper, Hale Hamilton is a certifiable lunatic in his paranoid attitude about day workers in the park.
    Susan refers to white people as "crackers" and worse.........she insults a hard working hispanic lady because the woman had the nerve to ask Susan for the money she had worked for, money owed to this lady for butt breaking work she did for Henderson, cleaning her house and serving at her parties.
    The dirts want the SNF to stay boarded up, so they can use it as a campaign issue, blaming Mayor Zimmerman.
    The lunatic Hamilton will probably write a column about Zimmerman being responsible for the depression the country is in. He'll also blame MacGillivray.
    Susan and her paper are a disease in this town.

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  25. Susan says the day labors are in front of the SNF. Look at the picture. They are in front of the park across the street.

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  26. Call her on this one, Sir Eric.
    Enough is enough!!!!!!
    Thanks, Pasta.

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  27. No. it's the SNF.

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  28. Oops. My bad. The SNF is in the background.

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  29. Either way, the Mountain-Views "Observer" comparison in print of these humans (day laborers) attached to the words "blight" and "eyesore" of the Skilled Nursing Facility site is reprehensible. Henderson is simply a reincarnation of Snider, who also enjoyed the cooperation and conspiratorial laughter of the Dirts. It is Cumquat time, people, albeit a different face.
    During the night, when you hear the coyotes ululating, it is all of them, shape shifting! A chilling thought.

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  30. They have a great delight in passing themselves off as righteous, upstanding citizens. Poor Ray Bradbury! The sycophants that will surround him at his Farenheit 451 appearance have committed countless dastardly deeds to suppress free speech in this town. What a charade.

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