Friday, March 5, 2010

Alfred Lee Departs

Alfred Lee's last day at the Pasadena Star News was yesterday. I received an email late in the afternoon, and apparently this is a good move for him. He has accepted a job at the Los Angeles Business Journal, a change of venue that is a definite step forward in his career.

Alfred made a difference here. For too long we'd become accustomed to a kind of journalism that only took the big development side when reporting on Sierra Madre's struggles with regional and Sacramento mandated housing and commercial properties demands. The politicians opposed to Sierra Madre maintaining its independent status would often garner the most ink in the Pasadena Star News, and their points of view would be presented as being the more reasoned and respectable.

The great California condo and commercial properties glut didn't just happen, it took the compliance of many different facets of society, including the press.

But Alfred was different. He functioned more as a traditional news reporter. If an issue was important to Sierra Madre, he would call people on all sides of that issue. Having received those calls from time to time, I can tell you that his questions were incisive and informed. The guy did his homework. And the resulting story would reflect this evenhanded approach, and would inform the readers of his paper about what was really going on, rather than what somebody wanted you to believe.

The tragedy of print journalism today is that it is having tremendous difficulty competing with the internet. I receive two newspapers on my doorstep every morning, and yet the first place I go to find out what is going on is my computer. It is convenient, it offers you thousands of news outlets from all over the world and, sadly for the newspaper industry, it is free. And because of this advertising revenues for the printed press have plummeted. Many papers have perished, while others struggle just to stay afloat.

And unfortunately for the sometimes honorable profession of journalism many print news organizations, in order to maintain needed advertising revenues, found that they needed to publish only those articles pleasing to that clientele. This, coupled with newsroom cutbacks, often resulted in reporting more concerned with seeing to the needs of advertisers than informing their readership. It was a stopgap measure that was destined to fail as circulation figures continued to plummet. Many more thoughtful subscribers no longer saw any reason to read papers that obviously had become little more than dependable outlets for corporate marketing.

Anyway Alfred, you'll be missed around here. Your old school approach to the news was remarkable in that you didn't just do it well, but also because you did what so few others are doing these days, reporting what is really going on. In these times that is an almost radical act.

Bonus Coverage: Little League Opening Day Ceremonies have been postponed yet again as rains threaten to harsh on another weekend in paradise. Many of the traditional kick off (or should that be opening pitch) ceremonies are being moved to the end of the season as scheduling now becomes more challenging. My kids are not happy.

47 comments:

  1. Anybody heard who has been assigned Sierra Madre at the PSN? I hear that each reporter there covers something like 12 cities.

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  2. I have an idea for Crawford.

    The PSN should pay the Tattler a "small fee", as the Tattler provides all the best news scoops in Sierra Madre and surrounding communities?

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  3. If the Pasadena Star News was interested in providing real coverage of what is going on around here they'd reprint some of the Tattler stuff from time to time. But you know that will never happen.

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  4. Oh no!
    This is bad news!
    Alfred Lee was the only reporter for years from the PSN who wasn't biased.
    He actually came to meetings, listened and reported objectively.
    I could read his articles without throwing the paper out the window.
    Best of luck to you Alfred Lee. With your clear objectivity you'll go far.
    Thanks.

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  5. So only the dirt stooge is left to cover Sierra Madre? What a shame. Or do I mean sham?

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  6. You could tell that when it came to Sierra Madre, Alfred got it.
    He took the time to figure things out, and he understood the
    complexities of what we faced. He was a breath of fresh air.

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  7. The Mountain Views News is a lifestyle publication, and what it claims is news is really just infotainment designed to please its target audience.

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  8. The mountainveuwsneus is the shell of a beautifully designed local paper, created by Katina Dunn, a genuine newspaperwoman and a genuine appreciator of the virtues of small towns. Any charm that still lingers in the paper is because of Katina's work. When it was a real paper, I had some out of town, big city guests who read it and were amazed at what a thoughtful and interesting newspaper it was.
    I haven't had it in the house ever since it was taken by Henderson.

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  9. I know that Henderson lost that court case - owes the Dunns $47,000 (?)
    Saw Faye Angus read the judgement of the court to the council on Neuroblast.
    So ?
    Did Henderson pay them the 47 grand?

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  10. I agree Curly. Reporter Lee was not swayed by glad-handing or grinning, or verbosity. The guy listened and thought.

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  11. Excellent Commentary! It has always been my belief that an investigative free press is the most important branch of our government. Unlike TV or now the Computer which must have entertainment as a componet of presentation, the printed newspaper must rely on content and writing skill to carry its message, which can be a marveloius thing. With our short sighted Supreme Court shifting emphasis from the individual to the Corporation, we need what newspapers offer mmore than ever......how sad!

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  12. Alfred Lee, please take a hand in training your replacement.
    You have no idea how grateful those of us on the slow-growth side are for your work.
    We finally had someone who would include us in the discussion.
    You did good deeds here Alfred.

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  13. 8:59, I believe that the money has not been paid.

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  14. channel 3 watcherMarch 5, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    8:59, at the last council meeting Henderson told the council that she didn't publish a week n January because it would have made her bankrupt, so she probably doesn't have the $47,000.
    In that case, won't the court figure out other ways to get it from her, or does she get to ignore the judgment against her?

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  15. So far it looks like she gets to ignore it.

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  16. I don't know, but the sale of assets would seem to be the usual way to go on such matters. What the MVN is worth to anyone wanting to purchase a weekly paper in Sierra Madre is a good question. It would seem to me that you would be better off just starting a new one than inheriting the kind of baggage that thing comes with.

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  17. It's the adjudication that gives the MVN value! A new newspaper would have to publish on schedule for one year before becoming eligible for adjudication -- and be able to document subscription/distribution claims. If the City Council challenges and wins in court, Susan has nothing to sell but goodwill.

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  18. Goodwill ... you mean that big metal box out in back of the supermarket?

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  19. Didn't Henderson agree to pay Tobia $65K for the Mountain Views before she folded in the Mt. Wilson Observer to make the Mountain Views News? I bet there's still a debt outstanding there as well as the $47K judgement to Katina. And Henderson lives in a rented home; are her Kiwanis and Chamber of Commerce memberships worth anything? 'Cause that's all she's got...

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  20. OK I'm confused. She has this judgement against her, isn't paying it, and there are no consequences.
    Huh?

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  21. The legal system does have its mysteries.

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  22. Whatever the outcome of Ms. Henderson's chicanery, she has the paper now and will be working hard to push the Mosca/Walsh/Moran ticket. We have to trust that the good people of Sierra Madre can see past glib exteriors and focus on items like voting records, and devote some time to really listening to the candidates, and asking them questions. The slow growth candidates are more than ready and willing to answer questions with cohesive and substantive responses. That will be the big, obvious difference: logic. Our side has got it. The other side has got smoke and mirrors.

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  23. Nobody reads it except the tourists at Beantown. The Mosca's Views News is a
    niche item at best.

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  24. Her only hope of continuing to publish the City's notices lies in supporting Mosca/Walsh/Moran. How can she be shut out if she's supported their election?

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  25. I don't think it's a question of shutting her out. It's a question of her ability to fulfill legal requirements to maintain adjudicated status.
    So far it is clear that she is not able to do so, and the city needs to take her to court.
    Hate those legal expenses, but this is one that we should pursue.

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  26. Buchanan was certainly eager to defend Henderson at the last council meeting. All of a sudden he was very ACLUish and conveniently ignoring the fact that it had already been established that any subscription lists could be given to the city attorney in confidence. Yeah, and the attorney Buchanan just forgot about that as he did his best take on privacy rights. He also said something like we've never done this before blahblahblah, and the city attorney nicely straightened him out, that yes, we've asked vendors for information before. The question is why is the city letting this vendor refuse to produce the requested information?

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  27. That is odd 4:27. Why indeed. You would think the city staff would be angry about the outright refusal for something they are entitled to.

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  28. Do you think I could refuse to respond to the city's request that I pay that damn UUT tax?

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  29. Seems obvious to me that Sacramento lobbyist supreme Johnny B is just trying to protect one of his assets. As flawed and useless as it is. Of course, JB has never been much of a judge on the quality issue. Just check out his chuckleheaded endorsement of the Cumquat on the front page of the Pasadena Star News a while back.........

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  30. Maybe I should get a new cell phone account and make my home address a PO box in some unicorporated town out in the big and dusty.

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  31. Johnny B was having a rough time of it last meeting, on a few issues. He had to try and defend land owners who irresponsibly let their properties deteriorate (perfect example across the boulevard from city hall) with remarks like, "What kind of notice will they get? How many warnings?" or some such, like it was just a slip-up that the property is so badly neglected that a discussion has to take place. He tried to downplay the great research done by resident Hinton, with something like "I'm not sure Palm Springs or Palm Desert applies to us" Right, because the dust is so different as residents inhale it. And he tried to say that Susan Henderson was being unfairly targeted.
    Kind of tough to try and wiggle around those three items.
    So Johnny B came away from that meeting as pro-blight, pro-dust, and pro-grifter.

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  32. Pro-blight, pro-dust, and pro-grifter? Sounds like B-Boy's political base.

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  33. Gee wiz, it took 23 posts on this Alfred Lee topic for it to turn into something about Mosca, we're slipping John.

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  34. 5:58 there are a plethora of topics on this thread - why are you counting and what are you looking for?

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  35. I think this blog needs a little pro-zac!

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  36. Because we must remain dilligent in our quest to defeat the beast that has cast this spell over Sierra Madre, to be side tracked from the task at hand by this Lee story does our cause more harm than good, where do your allegances lie 6:03, I detect a closet Mosca supporter at 6:03!

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  37. t. leary, was it the discussion of councilman Buchanan's efforts for more dust and more blight that woke you out of your haze?

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  38. 6:08, your hyperbole is off again.
    Alfred Lee was the best reporter about Sierra Madre that the Star News has had for decades.
    His departure is important news, and will perhaps lead to some hard twists and turns from the PSN.
    Almost everybody in town knows that Henderson's paper is false, but the PSN still has more support.
    It matters who writes about us.

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  39. Don't forget to watch the city council meeting Tuesday night.

    Should be a good show! Hopefully, more shock and awe from MacGillivray, Watts and Zimmerman!

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  40. Sorry to go off topic a bit...but saw many of the comments about Henderson and her "paper".

    I might be wrong, but I don't think the city has to take her to court......in fact the opposite, she would have to sue them.

    The city simply makes a finding that she has failed the terms of her contract and adjudication. Then the burden is on her.

    Also, didn't I read somewhere in State Law that to receive adjudication the paper must be published AND printed in the city?

    Sorry to see Lee move on, but seems to be all too common with decent reporters. Expect someone young, very young, to take over his duties.

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  41. 5:58 - we love talking about Joe Mosca. He is the perfect example of what is wrong with California. Sacramento is filled with varmints just like him.

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  42. Gilman, you could be my hero! We'll run this by the City Attorney and if it flys it could be Kurt Zimmermann's going away present. 6:03, we're not going for your bs.

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  43. 6:03 seems to advocate a very Soviet approach to political dissent.

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  44. It's also a very DIRT approach.

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  45. That explains the witlessness of it.

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  46. Good luck, Alfred Lee.

    I got a few of those calls too. Some during a time of great personal difficulty that happened to occur at the same time we were having big trouble in our city gov't. - Temple City.

    His reporting helped make a difference - right up to his last day. In fact, he posted on a comments blog late Thursday evening just to help a reader understand a story.

    I took my LA Times job because of Shelby Coffey, and have great memories of working with Ms Dunn, but passed on what became the MVN. It just didn't feel right.

    Alfred Lee's work felt right. Let's hope we get someone on our beat as good he was. Good luck, Alfred and thanks again for your kindness and hard work.

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