Jun 19, 2009

Aggro LA Weekly*

James Rainey, media critic at the Los Angeles Times, argues that the news gets skewed - and not in a good way - by an overly aggressive and indignant LA Weekly.

Rainey writes:
When the LA Weekly wrote a lengthy story last September about how little Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended to his official duties, it wasn't plowing fresh soil.


The media, rightly, should do whatever it can to determine if a politician is already measuring the drapes for his next office while sitting in his current one.

But as it has with several stories in recent times, the Weekly didn't let the facts speak for themselves in its Villaraigosa takedown.

Instead, it employed more semantic spin than Kobe Bryant puts on a jump shot, along with a prosecutorial methodology that proved much more about the declining quality of our city's dominant alternative newspaper than it did about our attention-grasping mayor.
Rainey pins most of the blame on the editorial judgment of news editor Jill Stewart.

I'm reminded that the LA Weekly just took home a slew of awards from the LA Press Club, including one for political writing.

*UPDATE: Jill Stewart responds to the Rainey column in an email to fishbowlLA and asserts the awards defense:
Hi there,

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 goes on from there here. The best part might be the graphic atop the fisbowlLA post.


Anonymous said...

Everything Rainey said was true, and worse. Jill Stewart scared off most of the respectable news writers, and now works primarily with journalists who won't object when she re-writes their work.

*The LA Press Club awards are a joke.

Anonymous said...

I did a freelance story for Jill Stewart about a year and a half ago and found her to be a consummate professional. She was tough as nails on me and told me things I may not have wanted to hear, but made sure to let me know what I was doing well and encouraged me to pursue excellence. I've worked for editors who've crossed the line from demanding to overbearing, and despite Rainey (and others') attempt to depict her as such, I just don't see it. I felt like she made my copy sing without stealing my voice. I don't know many editors who can do that.

Anonymous said...

I always wonder about journalists who go to great lengths to defend their work in long, combative e-mails with links to their stories they think support their position. People like Stewart like to remind everyone of the long list of awards they won to prove they are the elite among journalists. Well, I'll tell you, having judged dozens of local media award competitions, I can say many contests don't necessarily judge the merits of one's work. The more honest judges will tell you they sometimes judge entries based on fatigue, hunger and the considerable boredom of wading through a lot of crap. Stewart reminds me of a guy, an ex-Weekly contributor, who'd go off the deep end every time someone wrote a critical letter to the editor. He'd respond with 1,000-word essays about his sterling work and that he's the cat's meow among his peers. These responses amounted to little more than a tantrum mixed in with his resume. Stewart is cut from the same cloth. This all brings me to wish for the days when journalists let their work speak for itself. Rainey was reasonably balanced in his piece on Stewart. Isn't Stewart confident enough in her abilities to take a hit in the Times and let her work do the talking instead of these self-promoting "my-work-is-better-than-yours" schoolyard arguments?