When the L.A. Times‘s Chuck Philips covered the Biggie Smalls civil trial, I was amazed at some of the reporting I saw. One example stands out in my mind: an article trumpeted the fact that a witness worried about gang retaliation was — gasp! — recanting! Can you believe it?!
The article made it sound like this was the end of the plaintiffs’ case, when it was obvious that witnesses in such a situation would often recant. This and other articles seemed quite biased against the plaintiffs.
I was very interested because I had read Randall Sullivan’s book LAbyrinth and had written this post about it. But I didn’t have the time or energy to write about the coverage of the Smalls civil trial while it was happening. I made a few comments to my wife about it, and left it at that.
Luckily, Sullivan has continued to cover it extensively, as noted in a fascinating article titled Scandal Erupts at the L.A. Times by Jan Golab. It offers a possible explanation for the biased reporting — one which, if true, is an explosive allegation.
UPDATE: Michael Hiltzik, a friend of Philips’s, says that I should have said in this post that the allegation is based on the word of the recanting witness. It’s an odd complaint by Hiltzik. I didn’t say in this post what the allegation was or to whom it related, so you have to read the linked story to learn those details — and you would have inevitably learned the fact that Hiltzik thinks I’m trying to hide.
I do allude to this post in my 2005 Year in Review post, where I have a brief mention of what the allegation is — but I still don’t say the name of the reporter to whom it relates. You still wouldn’t know that unless you read the link (or read Hiltzik’s post about it, since he names the person).