Letters to the Editor - Defending journalists

Dear Editor:If City Editor Eric Pierce knew what fear, misery, heartache and despair the remaining writers and editors are experiencing at the rapidly sinking Los Angeles Times right now, he might not be so willing to slam a beleaguered group who are, professionally speaking, his colleagues. In the Feb. 13 edition of The Downey Patriot, he took the paper, and journalists in general, to task for what he perceives as arrogance and insensitivity, in this instance by eliminating the California section. Admittedly, the Times has always had trouble covering the regions of L.A. County; or, to put it another way; it's never been able to solve the intricacies of gigantic sprawl that characterize what was never intended to be a centralized city to begin with. No one has. I share his resentment of snobby, self-satisfied journos and editors, a few of whom I find insufferable. But that's just a few, and they work just as hard as their most earnest, civic-minded and conscientious peers. It wasn't their decision, that is, a professional journalists' collective decision, to shut down California. They're just as unhappy about it as Pierce is. The cut-back comes from the relentless pressure of management, and its absurdly suicidal notion that you can enhance a product by destroying its value. This is a lunatic trend that began with Reganomics (remember leveraged buyouts, junk bonds, spinoffs?) where entrepreneurs and investment bankers made money by buying companies, tearing them apart and ruining people's lives. In the late '80s, these MBA types started looking at newspapers, with their relatively healthy profit margins, and began squeezing them too. The Times began its decline then, as did most other papers nationally. Finally, when foul-mouthed Sam Zell bought the Chicago Tribune Company in 2007, the Times went into free fall. Zell hates journalists, and the Chicago group that preceded his ownership has always borne a strange cultural animus to L.A., as though it were the nation's Sodom and Gomorrah. Now we're seeing the result, endless bloodbath rounds of layoffs and the purging of irreplaceable talents who've spent lifetimes gaining knowledge and experience in their fields. A skeleton staff runs the paper now - down two-thirds from the '80s. Another round of layoffs is coming, and there's a strong rumor that the paper will go under in June - if the Long Beach Press-Telegram doesn't fold first. I know there are other problems facing newspapers - the Web and the blogosphere and an increasingly dumbed-down public. But those are other issues. In the meantime, it's up to local publications like The Downey Patriot to pick up the community slack. I admire the DP's new energy and promise; it's serving Downey better than ever. But with no money and a relatively inexperienced staff, I don't expect we'll be seeing any investigative journalism soon, or in-depth reportage from deeply knowledgeable editors and reporters who make journalism the social safeguard it is when it's at its best. So please, Mr. Pierce, have a heart when it comes to kicking people who are already down. - Lawrence Christon, Downey ********** Published: February 20, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 44