Open Letter From Walter Moore To The New Publisher Of The L.A. Times
Welcome to Los Angeles, and thank you for inviting comments from your readers in today's paper. Here are mine:
Pravda, The Politburo, And Tammany Hall
You can and should improve your paper's coverage of local government. Right now, the L.A. Times covers City Hall with the same level of scrutiny that Pravda covered the Politburo. Conspicuous by its absence from the Times is even a hint of investigative reporting. Instead, your reporters and editors seem merely to publish the press releases of local career politicians. Maybe it results from "groupthink," maybe just laziness. But whatever the cause, the newspaper you're taking over lacks any credibility when it comes to reporting on politics in the second-biggest city in America. City Hall in L.A. is essentially the Twenty-First Century's version of Tammany Hall, but your readers will never know it unless you "shake things up" at the Times. Here are two examples, which I hope you will research for yourself:
The "Big Lie" Lives: Your Paper's Coverage Of The City Budget
The first example involves the City of L.A.'s budget. Your paper accepted as true, and published without any scrutiny, the Mayor's assertion that he is a "fiscal conservative" who, by adopting a variety of cost-saving measures in the latest budget, managed to overcome a "structural deficit" of $200 million. In fact, however, he did not cut expenditures at all. If your reporters had bothered to look at this year's budget and last, they would have seen that the City's annual revenues skyrocketed by $717 million. They also would have seen that the Mayor's new budget spent all of those revenues. This could have been, and should have been, quite a story -- especially since the Mayor later hiked trash fees, saying he needed to do so to raise money to hire more police.
Potemkin Villages And The Developers Behind Them
In the upcoming election, voters in the City of L.A. will approve or reject Measure H, a billion-dollar bond proposal, ostensibly to build "affordable housing." Your paper devoted perhaps four paragraph to this item, which would impose a tax on L.A.'s homeowners for 30 years. The Daily News, by contrast, published an in-depth article, which included comments from people on both sides of the issue. The Daily News showed that the people advocating Measure H were funded by developers that receive millions of dollars in public funds already -- a connection your paper, and therefore your readers, missed entirely. Helping the homeless is one thing. Adopting a new tax to provide welfare to the rich is quite another.
What You Need To Do
You need new editors and reporters. You need people with the training, attitude and experience to challenge public officials' assertions, rather than accepting them at face value. You need people who can read a budget, people willing to make formal public records requests, people willing and able to get to the proverbial bottom of the story. Right now, you've got cheerleaders and sycophants. You need -- and our city needs -- bulldogs and true investigative reporters. Not only would a new approach serve the public interest, it would win back former subscribers and generate new ones, too. We want to read news in our newspapers, not press releases.
Teacher, Lawyer and Real Estate Broker