Patterico's Pontifications

10/12/2009

L.A. Times Misses Huge Local Story Sitting Right Under Its Nose

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 10:35 am

How bad is the L.A. Times‘s coverage of local issues? Chris Reed tells that the answer is: really, really bad:

Four weeks ago, I wrote the first version of this post to express my utter amazement that the Los Angeles Times — by far the biggest newspaper in Southern California — had failed to inform its readers that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — by far the biggest water supplier in the region — was preparing to retroactively increase the pensions of its entire staff by 25 percent at a time when it was in the middle of a two-year, 31 percent increase in the rates it charges water districts serving 19 million people from Ventura to Riverside to San Diego. The MWD’s pension system was already $400 million underfunded. Now MWD bosses, who stood to reap huge gains personally, were moving to increase the unfunded liability by $70 million.

If this is not a story to the L.A. Times’ 900,000 readers, what is? It’s stupid public policy. It’s mendacious public policy. It’s the sort of public policy that normally the Times would decry.

What was amazing four weeks ago stands as literally incredible today. With the MWD board vote on the 25 percent pension spike just a few days away, a Nexis and Google search shows the LAT still hasn’t told its readers about the proposal.

(My emphasis.)

Yes, that is pathetic.

Linking Reed’s post, Kevin Roderick did his own search and came up empty as well — while finding plenty of coverage in the Orange County Register.

I did my own search — and, to make commenter Foo Bar happy, I repeated it on Google to pick up anything in the blogs. I couldn’t find a thing. The paper had a story three days ago on state employees who collect pensions and a salary at the same time — but the MWD vote and its proposed $70 million in unfunded liabilities (a story sitting right under the editors’ noses) appears conspicuously absent from the paper and the blogs. (Even if the Google search somehow missed a blog entry, this is a story that belongs in the paper . . . period.)

And why is this happening? Reed rejects the explanation of ideology in favor of a more obvious answer:

I don’t think it reflects ideology. The LAT has done some good stuff on excessive benefits in the L.A. school district and has supported pension reform.

So that pretty much leaves rank, abject incompetence.

I can’t think of a better explanation myself.

30 Responses to “L.A. Times Misses Huge Local Story Sitting Right Under Its Nose”

  1. Beat me to it!

    AD - RtR/OS! (f793c7)

  2. [...] L.A. Times Misses Huge Local Story Sitting Right Under Its Nose [...]

    Patterico « Sister Toldjah (c83140)

  3. Never assign to political bias what can be reasonably explained by sheer incompetence. Look at the mess the Times made of the cistern story. fact is nobody there cares.

    glenn (757adc)

  4. Since the Chandlers ran things, the LAT has never met an unfunded future liability it was against. More gubment, good. Less gubment, bad.

    Remember for years and years how they would lament that if the gubment wanted to attract the best people, they needed to have compensation catch up with the private sector’s level. Never mind the Taj Mahal retirement plans (see? unfunded future liability isn’t real/does not count) Today, the SEIU-member DMV employees stayed home claiming a holiday benefit, despite specific direction from the gubment that they are not entitled to such. Yes, now that all studies show that gubment compensation has far exceeded the private sector’s, we sure have attracted the best, haven’t we?

    Ed from SFV (f8f689)

  5. “Never assign to political bias what can be reasonably explained by sheer incompetence.”

    Baquet’s Law.

    Official Internet Data Office (4514e0)

  6. Why can’t it be both? Selective incompetence. Assign your best people to dig up stories that fit your narrative and then claim there’s nobody left to look into other stories.

    Oh, wait, that was the NYT. I mean, assign someone who isn’t good at digging and finding problems.

    Oh wait, other papers already found the problem, so you have to find people who won’t even read other papers to find stories.

    This is harder than it looks.

    MamaAJ (5274bd)

  7. They could be getting paid off. They’re whores. It’s what they do. Look at Anne Applebaum. This is a sick and deeply useless industry, this newspaper racket.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  8. Haven’t read the LA Times in a while, do they have a comments feature? and if so just go post the story in comments about anything remotely related.

    glenn (757adc)

  9. I’m going to the MWD meeting tomorrow; will check to see if the LA Times shows up. If I can travel from San Diego, surely the LAT can send someone from Spring Street a short distance away.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (cdaed4)

  10. As Bradley referred to in an earlier thread, no doubt the LAT will be lining up expectantly at the gov’t feeding trough, with their trusty enablers at the FTC surely tagging right along. Damn those dirty, dirty bloggers.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  11. “FCC”

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  12. Dmac,
    I’m sure many of the LAT journosaurs, like Rutten and Lazarus and Hiltzik, would favor a bail-out. They can get subsidized by the taxpayers and avoid that icky free market that doesn’t properly appreciate their staggering genius.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (cdaed4)

  13. Put yourself in place of a Times reporter. You know the paper is going to go under, probably within a matter of months, and there aren’t too many other paying news gigs available in the area. And there’s a recession on. So why cause problems for yourself? Why keep paddling a sinking canoe?

    Nope, just play along and maybe you can get some kind of PR gig with one of the city depts, and some of that sweet, sweet pension.

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  14. It’s not like the LA Times doesn’t have access to the Water District folks. It published Op-Eds by Timothy F. Brick, the Chair of the MWD Board of Directors, on February 24, 2009, and August 26, 2009.

    DRJ (7fbae6)

  15. Just more verification of happy’s charge in #10.

    AD - RtR/OS! (f793c7)

  16. Probably because they know nobody is reading them. So why bother? Right? The internet has not favored print media.

    The Emperor (0c8c2c)

  17. At the store this evening on my way home, the KC Star had a table set up at the front door giving away today’s paper and asking for subscriptions.

    If you subscribed you received a $10 gift certificate to that store.

    I didn’t see any one stopping…..hell, they can’t even give it away.

    rls (e58293)

  18. Nor did they do a story on the DWP stealth rate increase. But readers of The Jury Talks Back got the info early.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  19. MWD just removed the pension plan from Tuesday’s docket. Not enough support from Met’s board.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (cdaed4)

  20. Somebody is having their feet pushed into the fire.

    AD - RtR/OS! (f793c7)

  21. Perhaps the plan had become too hot a political potato. On the way home listening to John & Ken, I heard a commercial by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association opposing the (now-withdrawn) MWD plan. I don’t think J&K were too enthused about the plan itself.

    MWD said it’s going to attempt to put together a more palatable proposal, but I don’t think the employee unions are very happy right now. I expect there will be some union protests. (I think one was scheduled for tomorrow before word of the plan withdrawal was announced. The LA Times will find it hard to keep pretending this issue doesn’t exist.

    But the LAT has a problem with this story. It will have to explain what happened to readers who (if they relied only on the Grey Lady of the West for their information), would have no clue this was taking place.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  22. For some reason. the LAT dedicated a large portion of their front page to conductor Dumadel. What’s so great about the guy?

    lee (9c7d9a)

  23. The OC Register has covered this extensively. I guess the LAT is jealous of its little brother.

    Patricia (c95a48)

  24. Patricia,
    Teri Sforza at the OC Reg. has done a bangup job. If I were wearing a hat, it would be off to her.

    I’m on Amtrak to the MWD meeting, despite the item being pulled. There’s another item I’m interested in, about the Carlsbad desal plant, and I want to hear what the unions say about the deal being dropped.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (256d97)

  25. In August John & Ken read about this in the OC register and did multiple hour-long segments about it since the plan was originally up for approval in August. As I recall they were going to post the names and phone numbers of the MWD Board members and urged their listeners to burn up the phone lines. They hosted a new board member from Santa Ana as I recall who was going to do what he could to kill it – but the board is made of representatives of all the water districts in S Cal that get water from the MWD and turning enough of them would be tough. Then the board postponed the vote until October clearly hoping that voters would forget about it.

    For the LA Times to miss this almost 3 month long continuing story of shenanigans at the MWD isn’t incompetence but willful dereliction of their duty.

    in_awe (a55176)

  26. You have to love this quote in today’s (Wed.) OCR: (according to MWD “workers”) “The board caved in to “fringe elements” that disseminated “lies and distortions” about the deal, workers said. They’ve been thrown aside as “vile” public opinion took over the negotiating process, and they view the abandonment of the contracts as a disrespectful slap in the face to people who work hard.” Bravo – that will win over rate-payers.

    MikeHu (e9e89c)

  27. [...] exclusively at my site. The paper claimed it was still covering local stories — yet somehow missed a story about a proposed $70 million increase in unfunded liabilities at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern [...]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Patterico’s Los Angeles Dog Trainer Year in Review 2009 (e4ab32)


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