Patterico's Pontifications

6/19/2009

L.A. Times Hit Piece on Jill Stewart: L.A. Weekly Staff Writer Responds

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 11:16 pm

L.A. Times media critic James Rainey today slams Jill Stewart and the L.A. Weekly, but neglects to tell you why he might be so upset — namely, they questioned his own journalism style a while back. In this post I explain why, show how Rainey contacted only anti-Stewart sources — and publish a reaction from a staff writer who works for Stewart and disagrees with Rainey.

Rainey labels my friend Jill “bombastic” and takes some shots at staff writer Patrick Range McDonald — although Rainey’s shots are sometimes fairly garbled. For example, Rainey tells us that a McDonald-penned piece on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa “employed more semantic spin than Kobe Bryant puts on a jump shot.” Well, gee. I didn’t know Kobe put any semantic spin on a jump shot. I guess you learn something new every day.

I doubt it’s coincidence that Rainey contacted only sources who slam Stewart. Calling Jill “highly ideological” is the highly ideological Marc Cooper. An unnamed writer says Stewart supports “gotcha, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey journalism.” (The writer doesn’t want to be quoted because — get this! — he still wants to be able to work for Jill! Will pin the tail on the donkey for cash!) Rainey also unsuccessfully tries to get a quote from Laurie Ochoa, who is thought to be anti-Stewart.

Who didn’t Rainey try to contact? I’ll tell you who: Jill Stewart or Patrick Range McDonald. As Jill says:

I wanted to tell my colleagues and friends in journalism and blogging that James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times did not contact me for his take-down attempt column about me today, published during the very same week in which news-side stories I assigned and edited blew the Times out of the water at the Los Angeles Press Club awards. These awards, announced five days ago, were judged entirely by journalists in other major cities around the nation to avoid local favoritism. And then yesterday, a young reporter who won a major award for a piece that I assigned and edited beat The New York Times and was in Washington, D.C., collecting his award.

It’s hard to imagine that James wrote this attack without being bothered by a piece we at the Weekly wrote about James and his frequent use of blind sources while covering his bosses. I am the editor who assigned and edited the piece about James Rainey by Luke Y. Thompson. Luke’s report on Jim was a classic Weekly story, assigned and edited by me, tough but factual, and filled with excellent sourcing.

There’s much more to Jill’s response, which she sent around this morning by e-mail (while I was still at work). It’s now up at the L.A. Weekly, so you should read the whole thing here.

I decided to add value by seeing if Rainey had tried to contact McDonald either. I had an idea that he hadn’t . . . and I was right. Here’s what McDonald sent me:

The Rainey/LA Times piece is unfortunate, especially the take down of Jill Stewart. I actually think the LA Times, Marc Cooper, and others have no idea what to make of the L.A. Weekly’s brand of journalism, which is very aggressive and distinctly non-ideological. In fact, Jill and I are always making sure we stay free of left or right-wing ideology…because we believe it can interfere with the search for some kind of larger truth.

For example, if you’re a left-wing, pro-union writer, you probably won’t write about how some union is screwing over its members. You’ll be afraid of making the labor movement as a whole look bad, and you’ll avoid telling the unvarnished truth, contribute to the bad treatment of those union members, and practice, in my book, bad journalism.

From Day One, in May, 2007, I came into this job thinking that ideology must be avoided in my writing. Jill never pushed that line of thought on me. And she has never pushed her own politics on me, and I’ve never pushed them on her–and I’m an out gay man with liberal sympathies.

Also, many of the stories I wrote did not come from Jill but from my own brain and interests. My Prop. 8 coverage, which won an honorable mention at the LA Press Club awards, started because the issue is important to me, and Jill let me run with it.

I had also been wanting to write a piece about Villaraigosa for months, especially because many reporters were vaguely writing about or hinting at the mayor’s poor work ethic, but no one actually checked it out for sure and nailed it down.

When I got his schedule, saw some amazing stuff that no one else had written about, and told Jill about it, she again let me run with it. That piece won a second place award from the LA Press Club. I was also only one of four LA-area journalists nominated for the LA Press Club “journalist of the year” award. And I know that a similar process takes place with Christine Pelisek, who won several first place awards from the LA Press Club.

I think the way these stories were developed also prove that Jill is not, in any way, pushing her own political agenda.

But we work hard, we rock the boat hard, and it was only a matter of time that someone pushed back. Comes with the territory. I’ll read Rainey’s piece again to see if I can learn anything from it, anything that may be valid and I need to be aware of. I didn’t see that on the first read, though.

In my mind, the fact that someone in the Times is writing that piece obviously shows we are making the right people nervous and doing the right kind of journalism. Despite the problems I have with the piece, the article is a weird kind of compliment.

Lastly, what’s very odd about the piece is that Rainey seemed to be trying to give us a taste of our own medicine, which is fine with me. But we always try to give people the opportunity to explain their sides of things. I met with Chief Bratton, for example, and talked with him for 45 minutes. I also talked and met with other high-ranking folks at the LAPD to understand what they were doing with their crime stats. With Villaraigosa, I tried to talk with mayor about his work schedule and only got as far as his spokesman, Matt Szabo. Rainey never contacted me, and, from what I understand, he never contacted Jill Stewart. Rainey, as a result, practiced the kind of “hit piece” journalism he so earnestly complains about.

McDonald added:

I’ve been a journalist since 1992. I’ve worked for a lot of different editors at a lot of different papers and magazines, including the Village Voice in the mid-1990s as a research intern, where I also had a couple of pieces published. Jill is tied with only one other person as the most supportive, dedicated, and intelligent editor I’ve ever worked with. It’s a pure delight to work for her.

I tried contacting Luke Thompson, who wrote the piece on Rainey for the Weekly. If he responds, I’ll publish what he has to say. He’s also a reader here, so you may end up seeing a comment from him. (Marc Cooper has been known to show up in the comments too.)

I’m sending an e-mail to Rainey as well, and I’ll publish any response of his here.

That’s how it’s done, by the way, Mr. Rainey. You give the other guy a chance to respond, and give his (or her) comments full and fair prominence. Heck, I know that — and I’m not even a “professional journalist”!

UPDATE: Stewart appears in the comments below, here. Marc Cooper also appears in the comments below.

UPDATE x2: Luke Y. Thompson replies here. I show how Rainey violated the paper’s policy on the use of anonymous sources here.

How You Know We’re Not Really in a Budget Crisis

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:52 pm

Because if we were, Obama wouldn’t be spending money on stuff like this:

The federal government is spending $423,500 to find out why men don’t like to wear condoms . . .

I’ll tell you for half that.

More from the “Duh” file of Studies That Cost a Fortune to Tell You What You Already Know:

The NIH spends $29 billion each year to help fund thousands of health studies at home and abroad.

But some questionable queries have come under close scrutiny, including a $400,000 study being conducted in bars in Buenos Aires to find out why gay men engage in risky sexual behavior while drunk; a $2.6 million study dedicated to teaching prostitutes in China to drink less while having sex on the job; and a $178,000 study to better understand why drug-abusing prostitutes in Thailand are at greater risk for HIV infection.

Submit your ideas for new studies in the comments.

Bo’s Official Portrait

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 5:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

It’s Friday and the Presidential approval index is down to +1 so it’s time for another Obama human interest story that I call The Obama Show.

This week they went with that all-American favorite, Puppy Bo in his official portrait:

Puppy Bo

He’s a really cute dog. I put his approval index at +100.

— DRJ

His Life in Her Hands

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 4:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I initially avoided this Houston Chronicle story because it’s very sad, but it also presents an interesting legal issue:

“Pedro Rosabal has been at Ben Taub General Hospital since Tuesday, taken there after police said he shot and killed his daughter, 8-year-old Osiris, and son, 6-year-old Onasis, in a west Houston apartment complex parking lot. The 33-year-old man then shot himself in the head.

Should a decision be needed on whether to pull the life support plug, Rosabal’s medical team will first need to find out if he has a designee named in a medical power of attorney. Usually, it’s the spouse. Without a designee, state law gives priority to the spouse as the decision-maker.”

Which means Pedro’s wife and the mother of his children could have the power to decide when to end life support, and that presents the hospital with a tricky ethical dilemma … that just got trickier:

“Rosabal’s wife, Hericelda Mendez-Quiroz Rosabal, visited him at Ben Taub on Wednesday, her friends said.

“She still madly loves him,” said Angie Cuellar, who added the woman embraced him as he lay in a hospital bed.”

Hericelda’s friends have no sympathy for Pedro, who they claim “beat his wife in front of the children” and called her to tell her he planned to kill their children. Meanwhile, the hospital may consider seeking out other relatives to act as guardian for Pedro or asking a court to appoint one for him.

— DRJ

Don’t Call Me Liz

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 2:41 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Politico’s Shenanigans posted Wednesday about Democratic Cong. Jim McDermott’s office manager and scheduler, Elizabeth Becton, and her dramatic reaction to being called Liz.

Even Keith Olbermann loved this story, and I highly recommend you watch his simulated version.

— DRJ

Dialing 911 for Obamacare (updated)

Filed under: General — Karl @ 6:18 am

[Posted by Karl]

More and more people are figuring out that Pres. Obama’s planned government takeover of the American heathcare system, once thought to be a shoo-in, is in “real jeopardy.”  The Opinionator neatly sums up Lefty panic over Obamacare’s deteriorating vital signs:

“Health reform is, I think it fair to say, in danger right now,” wrote Ezra Klein this morning at the Washington Post.

“Attention fellow liberals who want health care reform,” wrote Jonathan Cohn yesterday at the New Republic. “You are in danger of losing the fight for universal health insurance. And it’s not only — or even primarily — because of the public plan.”

“Anyone else think the net result of health reform is going to be that insurance companies have even more political power?,” twittered Atrios this afternoon.

What’s got the pro-reform contingent worried?

“It’s because of the money,” writes Cohn.

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.  By the way, Cohn also reported that the Senate Finance Committee has postponed its healthcare markup until after the July 4 recess.  Expect a proposal considerably scaled back from the $1.6 trillion price tag of the committee’s first draft.

Meanwhile, the Blue Dogs and New Democrats have been holding meetings to see where they can agree on an alternative to counter what the “crazy liberal chairs and their crazy liberal staffers” are brewing in the House:

Both sets of principles are geared toward making sure any public plan won’t gain a competitive advantage over private insurance plans.

Of course, a public plan that cannot engage in unfair competition defeats the point of the public plan.  Accordingly, one inference that might be drawn is that these two groups — which make up more than half the House Democratic Caucus — are positioning themselves to be be able to say, “I was not against a public plan… I was just against that public plan…”

As Obamacare’s condition deteriorates, progressives were looking for any bit of good news.  They thought they found it in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that 76 percent of respondents said it was either “extremely” or “quite” important to “give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance.”  They are desperate enough to overlook how strangely the possible responses to that question were worded.  They are also overlooking the question’s focus on “choice” in a country that likes choice and tends to associate it with freedom. 

They are certainly not attempting to reconcile those numbers with the even split Rasmussen got when asking people whether it would be a good idea to set up a government health insurance company to compete with private health insurance companies.  After all, Rasmussen is a tool of the Rethuglians.  That the NBC/WSJ poll also showed an even split on the question of whether Obama’s healthcare plan (generously and misleadingly described) is a good idea or a bad one is purely coincidental.

Also coincidental is the latest poll from Stanley Greenberg at Democracy Corps, which could not produce majority support for Obamacare, even after “a robust debate” that somehow did not include the argument that a public plan will cause employers to drop their employees’ private plans.  His deliberative poll shows, among other things, that the public’s basic attitudes on healthcare break down as Democrats vs. everyone else.  It also shows that peoples attitudes on these issues are basically the same as in 1993.  The latest Pew poll shows the same thing, except theat the results are a little worse for the Left today, with 14 percent fewer people thinking the system needs to be rebuilt.

All of which is why Greenberg, Nate Silver and others are dialing 911, by which I mean begging Pres. Obama to get out and sell, sell, sell a government takeover of healthcare.  The White House/DNC internal polling was probably saying the same thing, which is why ABCNews is getting to air Obamapalooza next week — which is going to be super-balanced, with questions submitted through the Lefty-dominated Digg.com.

Unfortunately for Democrats, an Obamamercial will not change the fact that the legislative sausage-making is already moving away from a public plan.  Indeed, the more Congress is forced to scale back its more grandiose fantasies, the less enthusiasm there will be for the effort among the activists and the nutroots.  An Obamamercial will not change the unforgiving math of the CBO.   As Pres. Obama once observed, “You can put lipstick on a pig — it’s still a pig.”

Update: Pres. Obama and VP Joe Biden joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Ldr. Steny Hoyer and committee chairmen Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman and George Miller to announce the outline of the House Democrats’ healthcare proposal:

The outline did not include details on how Democrats would pay for the plan.

Then they piled back into their clown car and sped away.

–Karl


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