L.A. Times: We Didn’t Cover the John and Ken Rally Because
Those Guys Are Idiots Rallies of 15,000 People Aren’t Newsworthy. Oh REALLY?!
Radio personalities John and Ken recently hosted a “taxpayer revolt” in Fullerton with a crowd of between 8,000 and 15,000 — and the L.A. Times wasn’t there to cover it. At the Readers’ Representative blog is a letter that editor David Lauter mass-mailed to “dozens” of readers who had written to complain about the lack of coverage.
Thanks to each of you for writing. I appreciate hearing from all of you — even the ones who called me a moron.
As a counter to the radio station’s claim of 15,000 attendees, Lauter’s letter uncritically repeats the ostensibly more objective estimate given by a Fullerton police sergeant who fixed the number between 3000 and 8000. (Way to nail it down, Sarge!) If the extremely large gap between the extremes of that range suggests to you that the Sergeant may lack expertise in the field of crowd estimation, then congratulations! You’ve just demonstrated more journalistic skepticism than a trained editor at a major national newspaper.
The Times chose the lowest numbers out there; other estimations were much closer to the radio station’s claimed 15,000. According to Jon Fleischman, the Fullerton Police Department estimated the crowd at 15,000. This citizen journalist also reports the number at 15,000. According to the Orange County Register, police estimated the crowd at 8000. (Are these different police?)
You start to get the sense that crowd estimation is not an exact science, don’t you? But you still get the strong sense that there were a lot of people there.
So why not write about it? Lauter says:
Between now and the May 19 election, we plan extensive coverage of both sides of the campaign over the ballot initiatives. We’ll explain the issues, tell readers what both sides are saying, figure out where the money is coming from to pay for the campaigns on both sides and show people what’s at stake. What we’re not likely to do is cover a lot of individual rallies — from either side. That’s not a political thing. We don’t cover a lot of government-worker rallies in favor of tax hikes, either. That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in the issue or that we have any disrespect for the people who attend the rallies (or the people who organize them).
Yuh-huh. I noticed that you didn’t clearly deny that you lack respect for John and Ken. Instead, you just say that readers can’t draw that conclusion based on the paper’s lack of coverage of a rally — because the paper just don’t cover a lot of rallies.
DOES THE L.A. TIMES COVER RALLIES? YOU BET IT DOES! And they don’t have to have 15,000 people, either — as long as the issue is one near and dear to the hearts of Times editors.
The Times has covered protests and rallies with crowds similar in size to John and Ken’s tax protest. Examples include the teachers’ rally in Pershing Square with a crowd of around 10,000, or an immigrants’ rights march in L.A. with “[n]early 5,000 immigrants and their supporters” — or the immigrants’ rights march with 3000 attendees . . . in Norcross, Georgia.
On the lower end, we saw a story about 50 Teamsters marching into a freight hauler’s office to demand that some truckers be reinstated. Laughably, an entertainment feature called the “Envelope” told us the critical news that “[m]ore than a dozen” Jews for Peace demonstrated outside the federal building in Westwood, seeking more humanitarian aid for Gaza.
SO WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON? An intrepid reader sheds considerable light on the subject. She wrote Lauter and got a . . . somewhat different response. One that denigrated the rally as a “promotional event for radio personalities.” The letter, which begins with the same bland boilerplate as the letter quoted above, ends this way:
But while the issues involved are important, rallies by themselves are seldom newsworthy. In an area the size of southern California , there’s a rally, demonstration or march practically every week somewhere, particularly when a political campaign is under way. We’ll make sure that all sides in the debate get covered fairly, but I think there are better ways to do that than by covering promotional events for radio personalities.
That almost suggests disdain for these particular radio personalities. But surely such an attitude can’t prevail at a bastion of objectivity such as the L.A. Times?
Well, the L.A. Times‘s James Rainey recently wrote a column dripping with contempt for John and Ken, whom he dismissively termed “KenJohn” and described as people who “seem to like their answers without much nuance.”
Rainey, of course, is a columnist. His type of snooty attitude could never infuse the decisions made by news editors. They have objective reasons to refuse to cover a tax protest of 8000 – 15,000 people while giving space to PETA lunatics, 50 Teamsters, and a baker’s dozen of Jews for Gazan Terrorism.
Yes, I’m joking. Thanks for asking.
Anyone who doubts that the editors of the L.A. Times lack respect for John and Ken, raise your hand.
Anyone who doubts that the contempt editors feel for John and Ken influenced their decision not to cover the rally, raise your hand.
I see no hands.
UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link. Also, I should have mentioned in the post that that there were a couple of dismissive lines on the rally in one of the paper’s blogs, suggesting the rally might be merely a “radio stunt.” But it was never mentioned in the print edition.
Readers have even more examples of rallies the paper did cover in the comments.