As Nika Soon-Shiong’s political activism grew, it became harder for the paper to chart out coverage that converged with her interests. Staffers grew alarmed when she clashed with an editor on the Metro desk earlier this year over the Times’ reporting on the LAPD. It was not lost on staff that they did not initially report on the public safety commission’s decision to reduce funding for the LA County Sheriff’s Department — a move she pushed for aggressively and one that was covered widely by other Los Angeles outlets.
There were internal grumbles after the paper endorsed Democratic West Hollywood Council member Lindsey Horvath for the powerful LA County Board of Supervisors. Horvath had a close relationship with Nika Soon-Shiong — she defended her publicly and said attacks on her were “rooted in racism” — and helped appoint her to the public safety commission.
More recently, the Times endorsed Kenneth Mejia, a self-described radical and Nika Soon-Shiong favorite, for the job of city controller. Two days after the endorsement, City Hall reporters David Zahniser and Julia Wick wrote a story detailing how Mejia, as a Green Party member, said he considered both Joe Biden and Donald Trump to be “sexual predators.”
The ownership of a paper retains the right to endorse whichever candidates they want. Often, they exercise that liberty. Merida said that Nika Soon-Shiong has no “say in endorsements.”
But the Mejia editorial sparked immediate backlash over the perception that she had a hand in it. City Council member Paul Koretz, a Democrat and Mejia’s opponent in the race, accused the paper of acting “as if it were run by the Mejia campaign itself.”
“People are just scratching their heads about their editorial board and how they can come to these decisions,” Koretz told POLITICO. “I have never seen an election where the newspaper is the story.”
Really? Keep Rockin’!
As Mickey Kaus notes, Carl Bernstein, then with the Washington Post, used the 1970s equivalent of phone hacking to dig up information about the 1972 Watergate burglary. Kaus quotes from “All the President’s Men,” Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s account of their reporting on the scandal that sank President Nixon:
Bernstein had several sources in the Bell system [the landline telephone monopoly]. He was always reluctant to use them to get information about calls because of the ethical questions involved in breaching the confidentiality of a person’s telephone records. It was a problem he had never resolved in his mind. Why, as a reporter, was he entitled to have access to personal and financial records when such disclosure would outrage him if he were subjected to a similar inquiry by investigators?
Without dwelling on his problem, Bernstein called a telephone company source and asked for a list of [Watergate burglar Bernard] Barker’s calls. That afternoon, his contact called back and confirmed that the calls listed in the [New York] Times had been made. But, he added, he could not get a fuller listing because Barker’s phone records had been subpoenaed by the Miami district attorney.
As far as we know, Bernstein was never investigated, much less prosecuted, for this. To be sure, there’s a strong argument that the ends justified the means in the Post case but not the Globe case. Certainly a political scandal that ended up implicating the president is a matter of much greater public importance than a sensational murder case. But it does not follow that the “mainstream press” is entitled to greater constitutional liberty than tabloids are.
What’s more, supermarket tabloids have been known to break important political stories that the mainstream press shied away from–and in this regard, the Los Angeles Times has an especially embarrassing record. In 2008 Kaus published an email from Tony Pierce, an editor at the L.A. Times, to the paper’s online contributors (quoting verbatim):
There has been a little buzz surrounding John Edwards and his alleged affair. Because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumors or salacious speculations. So I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified.
If you have any questions or are ever in need of story ideas that would best fit your blog, please don’t hesitate to ask
As Kaus quipped: “That will certainly calm paranoia about the Mainstream Media (MSM) suppressing the Edwards scandal.” Two weeks later, Edwards partially confessed, and Times columnist Tim Rutten weighed in:
When John Edwards admitted Friday that he lied about his affair with filmmaker Rielle Hunter, a former employee of his campaign, he may have ended his public life but he certainly ratified an end to the era in which traditional media set the agenda for national political journalism.
Rutten acknowledged that “too many newsrooms, including that of The Times,” were derelict in ignoring the Edwards story. But his column reflected a telling defeatism. By proclaiming the “end to the era” of traditional media, he seemed to be suggesting that those media, including his own paper, were incapable of applying any lessons from the experience of being shown up by the Enquirer–that they were too hidebound to do anything other than keep rockin.
And then there was the moment last year when the L.A. Times smeared the first black candidate for governor of California as “the Black face of white supremacy. You’ve been warned,” compared him to David Duke and the Klan— and downplayed the physical attack that he received.
by Ed Driscoll