Monday, March 26, 2007


The World and the L. A. Times

This is a potent post which I believe is of vital interest to anyone in the world who is interested in news. This is also a blatant promotion on my part for an upcoming public television program "Frontline," and the fourth in their series about the news upon which we are all so dependent in order to accurately know what is happening in our country and the world. This episode is titled "Stories From A Small Planet." Please check your local PBS TV listings for when the program will air in your area. The program will air on KCET-TV in Los Angeles, California on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 9-10 p.m. PDT. (Click for links on PBS TV and KCET-TV above.)

I have long believed soon after the tragic horrendous events of 9/11 that the true war on terrorism was for the hearts and minds of peoples all over this world which is the subject of this PBS program. I found the reaction of the leaders of governments abhorrent when they chose to resort to the means by which they did to win this war against terror by attacking Iraq. Such an act has done little more than to exacerbate the situation. That is not to say there might not be instances in which our country and others might have to resort to physical means in order to secure their citizens and country's safety, but the ill-conceived means by which our leaders chose to react have clearly done more damage to our country than 9/11 ever did.

A failure or stubborn unwillingness to recognize, much less even consider how the real war needed to be fought, should give us all pause, since the actions by our leaders and some others around this world were taken in my name and yours. The blood of innocent civilians and those of countless deceased and maimed military persons is on our hands. We have betrayed true meaningful justice for our own -- our victims of 9/11.

I have found this whole "Frontline" series to be of special interest. The previous episode which aired 2/13/07 focused on the critical aspect of "News Wars" going on within our own country. The sources of information from which we can derive accurate news are diminishing. Those of us enamoured with the Internet, the blogosphere and blogs would do well to examine from whence our actual news comes.

I don't have a news team on the ground in Iraq, or in any other country, including my own, that feeds me news reports. I am dependent upon many sources I read, hear or see that are provided by a decreasing number of newspeople. I respectfully will credit those sources from whom I obtain my information, thus, in turn, those from whom my sources derive their news -- crediting those who often place their lives at risk, so that I can know what is happening elsewhere, as well as what is being done in my name.

The "News War" episode is of interest to everyone since it encompasses the state of news and can be seen by clicking on this link HERE, then clicking on "Frontline," and finally selecting "News War."

There is a segment of special interest to all, as well as readers of the Los Angeles Times, which includes an interview with the publisher, who regrettably is not local. He smilingly expresses his intent to eviscerate the paper's Pulitzer Prize winning news department to focus more on entertainment world information, along with claims of an increased focus on "local" news, but that is hardly likely to have much benefit for me or most other readers. There certainly is a need for more entertainment news, to which all can attest, since there is so little of it anywhere. (I'm saying this bitterly and sarcastically.) Any thought of public service responsibility is relegated to the film cutting room floor by this Chicago publisher, since they own our paper, who is more concerned with 20% profit than a meager 10% other successful public-minded publishers are willing to accept elsewhere as reported in the "News War" program.

Subsequent to my viewing of this program, other major news media reports have recently revealed a refusal by this same publisher to accept buy back offers for local Los Angeles ownership. Powerful groups of varied individuals composed those blocks bidding for the paper. I don't suggest that either one of them would have been desirable except for the fact that I believe the illustrious Los Angeles Times deserves local ownership and owners dedicated to shepherding the newspaper through these difficult times of converging print, with other media and the Internet while maintaining a quality publication. I understand this is no small task for the feint at heart with the final outcome yet to be seen. In other words, there's also a lot of money at stake. I would like to believe there are still individuals and groups less greedy than our current publisher -- those who care more about our southern California, with a greater sense of commitment to our residents, and moral sense of responsibility to the public.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the stockholders to whom this Chicago publisher is beholden would stand up and let him know that they are not only willing to be satisfied with a smaller profit margin, but demand that he take the morally responsible high road with this award winning newspaper, since he lacks the courage to do so on his own?


  1. I will attempt to find that program in our local listings!

    AS to the newspaper, perhaps if the publisher does not agree with them, they could start a new paper, one that prints all the hard news and leaves the entertainment stories to the other media.

  2. Good post, Joared.
    I saw a piece a few days ago taking Dan Rather to task for criticizing the present state of American "journalism," but his take and yours on the profit motive behind corporate-controlled journalism rings true to me. The passing of the L.A. Times is sad.
    Where would an Eward R. Murrow work today? I suspect he'd have to blog.

  3. If you search around a bit there are some interesting Iraqi blogs.

  4. Yes I will watch the "Stories From A Small Planet", a Frontline program. Here in metro Detroit it starts at 10pm. I usually watch "Frontline" any way.

    In your well written post you took on several issues. First the Iraq War, now occupation, was a response to 9/11. But not quite the reason for going to war. Was it one huge, gigantic knee jerk response with tragic results? For it seems that all of the reasons have been debunked. So why did we go to war?

    Kristina Borjessson edited "Feet to the Fire:The Media After 9/11". She interviewed 21 top journalists. They spoke out about how the news media let us down. They addressed the reasons for going to war, why the news media let us down, entertainment value of news and ratings. She did not get any consensus on the reasons for the war.

    I too was angered when the LA Times owners wanted a 20% profit rather than 10% or 12%. And the Times were at the top in reporting international news!!

    Oh the power of greed!

  5. Kenju: Ah, yes, starting another newspaper might be ideal, but from all accounts this is a highly unlikely time in which to do so given decreasing circulations.

    I welcome entertainment information in a daily, but only in proportion to what is really important in our country and the world. It's not like there aren't any pure entertainment news disseminating publications, TV shows, or Internet sites. ;-)

    I want the L.A. Times to continue to be one of the few remaining strong original world news producing papers left in the U.S.

    I see the increasing entertainment encroachment, which began many years ago, becoming an invasion into real news in our country much like weeds in grass, which eventually overrun the yard, choking out all the grass. We then become a nation of uninformed Neros, fiddling while Rome burns.

    AQ: Profit motive is truly the issue, straight from the publisher's own mouth in his interview on the Frontline 3rd pgm., "News War."

    You're probably right, Murrow would be blogging, but how to get his reports to all those without computers? Or, maybe the question is, how to get computers, training on how to use them, Internet access to all those without?

    Pattie: I admire your loyalty. Just hope your paper's publisher doesn't get too greedy.

    septuagent: I'm sure there are some good news blogs out there, but it takes time to search for them and therein lies the rub for me and probably many others. There are so many people yet without computers and they still need real news.

    I find trying to locate good news blogs much more time consuming, with fewer good source references in the first place than buying a newspaper, whose writers, reputation, I and others whose judgement I respect, have established.

    I'd like to see a good list of objective reliable Internet news sources, web addresses, possibly with some surface reference in the beginning letting me know if they have a particular political bent. Of course, that will soon become clear with reading. I don't yet have a laptop, so I like having print to carry with me to an easy chair or sofa as I suspect do many.

    Bob: Good question as to why we went to war. Far from being a knee jerk reaction to 9/11, I've read enough, seen interviews with key players to conclude this was a long planned and desired plan by a select group, many of whom ended up in our government administration. I believe this was an action waiting for an excuse to be implemented by individuals who, unfortunately for us, found themselves in a position to make this happen and hold sway over any others who became part of making the war happen. Either the others didn't really know what was going on in the world, so followed the advice, or had an agenda of their own, or both. There were more contributing causes, but that alone was quite enough.

    Our Congress, both parties, are no less culpable for not asking hard questions. It was not popular then to be against the war. In fact, we were told we weren't patriotic, possibly even traitors and likely that may be the attitude from some still.

    I think our news media did let us down, but there were voices, and information was out there. There were lots of people, not just me, who could add 2+2 and come up with 4 before this Iraq fiasco began.

  6. Joared -- I have missed this series and will miss the one you write about as we are headed back to NYC.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote wrote in Sunday's NYTimes about how the three words, 'war on terror' (WOT), as a mantra, have had a pernicious impact on American democracy.

    I have enjoyed studying media and your situation locally with your newspaper was one of the topics I did study. As the Washington Post online became a national/international paper (when they still saw themselves as local) and the national voice of the WSJ and NYTimes could broaden with online presences, most papers realized they had to become focused on local news. Your paper didn't and wanted to compete nationally. How newspapers are changing due to online news reading, tv viewing habits and alternative media forms (blogs, for one) is fascinating.

    How traditional media have reacted and responded to the never-ending War on Terror (WOT) -- serving as a mouthpiece rather than as a tool of democracy is another interesting field of study that I looked at in political communications.

    Hurricane Katrina revealed that the mantra of the administration was not in congruence with reality. What was said (think of Bush speaking in rolled-up shirt sleeves before the generator-lit courthouse in New Orleans where the clock was frozen -- like a staged production or using fear as a tactic to intimidate media and subdue the populace) and the media just following. Anderson Cooper and others rose to prominence by reporting the facts on the ground that the government was not acknowleding with Katrina. The blogs and alternative media could then play an important role in democracy.

    The SF Gate is one of the top newspapers to have a strong online presence.

    OK enough platforming here. You've hit my interest area with your post today. Now I've got to scramble and pack my suitcase.

    Cheers from NM.

  7. motherpie: I agree, I find this whole media convergence fascinating. Sounds as though you've had some good insights in your research.

    Brzezinski was interesting on Charlie Rose the other night discussing WOT, the status of the U.S. in the world. Depressing, but sadly, we know.

    Thanks for your comments, I'll check out the SF Gate.

  8. The whole thing is so damn overwhelming and depressing...! For me, The NY TIMES is still the paper I read and respect. When I moved to L.A. 46 years ago, I found the L.A. Times to be a terrible paper. Filled with so much advertising and also very very biased and leaning waaaaay to the right. I grew up on The NY TIMES and THE HERALD TRIBUNE, And PM..(long gone....). The encroachment of "entertainment" in ALL fields of news is's like the drug that we are fed to keep us happy and docile and uninformed about what is REALLY happening.
    I see no way out, myself. I know that is terrible...but, that's how I feel.
    FRONTLINE is a magnificent program---everytime out of the box, and Thank God for them. But do I think anything will change? No. I don't, I'm sorry to say. I am usually a positive person on a lot of levels...but this situation in our country is so sickly and degenerating daily....The Los Angeles Times situation is a perfect example of this. And most of the news outlets are owned by about 5 or 6 HUGE Corporations...How can there be a real chance for things to change when this is the case?
    OY! I have now depressed myself sufficiently...I am going to eat some chocolate and look at nature!