i am heartbroken
i am heartbroken
let’s say in 10 years i finish this thing.
i will overshadow it.
the same way Huell Howser overshadowed his show, and Anthony Bourdain overshadowed his, and Studs Terkel overshadowed Working.
you can’t help it. you think of the host and not the guest.
and worse, some people might not even dive into the thing because of the host.
in no way am i saying that i am powerful enough to go to every neighborhood in LA and the takeaway will be omg tony pierce is cooler than LA… im saying it will be known as a crazy epic thing that tony pierce made
instead of, omg heres all the neighborhoods of LA, thus here is LA, thus wow – lets check out some of these places
how cool were those people.
it seems to me the only way to get those results instead of the one i am afraid of
is to do it with a team. the bigger the better.
today Kevin Merida, the new editor of the LA Times, basically said Hear in LA is the way the LA Times should build trust. when i agreed, both Angel Jennings (who used to be the only Black reporter on the giant Metro desk – and now she’s on the masthead) and the EIC both liked my reply when I said it was perfect.
not only do i hope they didn’t think i was being sarcastic
but i hope they know that if i am approached to do Hear in LA at the Times I would be more than interested, but i would want it to be a full court press
i would want as many people on the payroll as possible to interview the people in their neighborhood.
because when it’s a full team effort, the story becomes less about the storytellers
and way more about the people who are in those neighborhoods.
when Hear in LA is completed, i want people to remember the people.
Pretty sure this is the most productive I’ve ever been as a reporter. Even with LAist I didn’t produce these many original pieces in one month.
Of note: interviews with American Apparel founder Dov Charney about what his new company, Los Angeles Apparel is doing to help curb the pandemic, a visit to a Walmart in the Valley as it gets new pallets of toilet paper and paper towels, features on a radio journalist from KNX and an outgoing Pulitzer winner from the LA Times, an interview with an ICU doc in Palm Springs who uses the controversial cocktail to try to save lives of coronavirus patients, a feature on smokeless weed with several fascinating people, and a bunch of news wrap-ups all about the terrible virus that changed everything.
And I took some cool pictures.
youre not allowed to criticize them
even if they keep sending their employees to the unemployment lines
or the retirement homes.
youre not allowed to count their money or question what they do with the paper
because everyone knows that newspapers in 2020 are money losing ventures
first it was craigslist, then monster.com, then facebook, the ways newspaper revenues dried up were death by a million cuts.
even though over there are over 2,000 billionaires, only a few of them have any interest in the news biz, and so you arent allowed to criticize those who do because omg what if they all say
fuck this shit.
but heres the thing about billionaires, and please correct me if i am wrong.
in order to achieve that title, you can’t really give a whole bunch of it away in annoying ways like salaries and health insurance and matching 401ks.
im sure there was a bit of a twinge today when the richest man in LA signed the paperwork that sent 40 people into the worst day of their life: suddenly unemployed in the middle of a pandemic
and clearly theres not just a mountain of dollar bills in his basement, six billion strong.
but come on.
come the fuck on.
how is this not heartless, selfish, fucking shitty behavior
the type that the best newspaper west of manhattan would call out if it was being done by any other billionaire in town.
ive seen them do it.
today about 666 present and former employees of the LA Times joined together to say goodbye to the Times building
our home away from home
i saw so many people who i never thought would be there. i saw faces whose names i didnt remember. i saw people who looked EXACTLY as they did when I was last there.
and i love them all
it was all so sweet.
in many ways it was just like we left it
“new” carpet and equipment and tv and stuff but almost everything was in the same place.
yes amber and i took the tour last month but that was a limited thing and we didnt get to talk to too many people
but this was different, this was a real homecoming where we got to wander around the sprawling building. which was a little weird without a lot of the pictures that used to line the walls, and framed iconic newspaper front pages that saluted you as you walked through the ground floor.
there was the elevator that i once rode with Rihanna as she was visiting her then-boyfriend Chris Brown
there was the office i once received a gigantic bonus in
there was the bathroom i once took a cool selfie in
and there was the spot where my desk once was where i learned that Michael Jackson had died
and where i watched Barack Obama get elected.
i feel that i am so lucky because these are some of the smartest and sharpest minds in the entire game.
old cohorts who are now here there and everywhere. we are so spread out but tonight we were together mixed in with the young writers, some of whom, weirdly, i know too.
i am so happy, which is weird because i thought i was gonna be so sad. i thought i was gonna cry the whole time.
this was my dream job. this is where i had hoped i could work at for so long.
this is where i wrote about on this blog time after time after time, never truly believing i would ever work at
and then when i was gone, a place i had thought had totally forgotten about me.
i was so wrong. i am always so wrong.
turned out people did remember me. and some knew me who had never met me.
we talked and hugged and i drank and we took so many pictures and i even got a few parting gifts. which is crazy because the whole thing was a gift.
you can dream. you can tell everyone what you want. and at some point you might even get a shot at what you want.
and then its all about working working working to feel like you belong.
to feel like you deserve to be there.
i may never feel that way no matter how great our results were, but i was there.
i was in the game.
i got to see the thing from the inside
and i am so grateful, it’s crazy.
but you know whats really crazy? that in a few weeks this will all be gone.
the place where so much happened.
where everything and everyone happened
it will all be gone.
just more square footage to be rented out.
life is so bizarre
ask for what you want, then french kiss it.
yesterday amber an i went to the LA Times because we learned that there were only two official tours remaining of the building before the paper moves to El Segundo.
thankfully my boss understood that im insane and the only days off that i want are for weird things like this and not trips to maui.
but to get a tour of a fascinatingly rich and complex building like the LA Times from a 40-year veteran of the paper like Darrell Kunitomi is a priceless gift.
he has seen it all, met everyone, worked with everyone, and experienced all the very high highs and extremely low lows of the greatest paper west of Manhattan.
it was a bittersweet tour because with every fact, photograph, and piece of equipment was an asterisk that said THIS TOO WILL BE GONE WHEN THEY MOVE.
the root of the problem was executive after executive from Chicago has done its best to ruin the LA Times, plunder its riches, lay off its people, and finally sell its majestic building and hoard the profits.
so now the paper is a tenant in a building that they also share with the likes of Uber(!) and they are forced to pay $2 million a month in rent. meanwhile the new owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong owns a building by LAX and he would rather spend millions renovating it so that the paper can work in a modern place… rent free.
because life is crazy, it just so happened that Dr. Patrick (as people now call him) was in the building yesterday because he was officially announcing the sale and the new Executive Editor. the newsroom was joyous with anti-Tronc signs, cake, and bubbly.
the tour was not allowed to join in the celebration, as this was their moment, which is understandable, but damn did i want to be in there with some of my former colleagues. The Mayor even showed up.
i did splinter off from the group when we made it to the Entertainment section which is where the Sports Dept used to be. Gerrick Kennedy, Randall Roberts, and Alison Dingeldein all greeted me and i got to chat briefly with my pal Todd Martens.
when we finished the tour Amber and I were filled with emotion because… that’s it. That cool building will be ruined, basically, with stupid condos or offices that will not change the city the way a 100+ year old paper can. and all the memories that people with way more time spent on Spring Street will be heard and not seen.
so we went to the nearby Redwood Bar, where Timesmen and Timeswomen have escaped to since the days of rotary phones. and there we hid out in the dark, listening to classic rock, and eating fish tacos.
i love the LA Times so much and the people who made it and make it what it was and is and it’s so sad that this sad story never ends. even with a prince of a billionaire trying to make things better. maybe it will be better. maybe the new place will be a turning point.
the first was Elon Musk who sent a rocket ship containing a Tesla car into space this morning
and then had his rocket boosters fly back to earth safely so he could use them again
and again and again.
moral of the story: surround yourself with people who believe that anything is possible
and you will create miracles.
the second was the richest man in LA, Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong,
who might take $500 million of his $7 billion fortune to buy the best paper west of Manhattan
your Los Angeles times.
moral of that story: sometimes good things happen to good cities.
always do the right thing, Mookie.
LA is huge.
imagine the biggest place you’ve ever been in and quadruple it.
that will just be the Valley, which you need to know if you are really to get LA.
then quadruple it again and you’ve got South Central,
which is where the secret soul of LA is. the actual heartbeat.
the fakers fly right over south central via overpasses or freeways , but if you live here long enough
and if you start meeting the right people you will go to a house party off Crenshaw
you will get your haircut on Florence,
you might even find yourself at a sample sale near Carson.
LA goes all the way to Long Beach and inside the weirdest dead ends of downtown.
everyone hikes Runyon, but if i was the failing New York Times and their laughing stock of an LA bureau here’s what i would do:
there is a stretch of LA from Santa Monica to DTLA thats as wide as Pico to the south to Sunset to the north.
i would refuse to run any stories from that stretch an zero from downtown.
i’d also ignore anything happening in the upper crust of Malibu, Manhattan and Redondo Beaches.
why? because unless we are talking about crime, 90% of so-called news and features by the mainstream press happen in that narrow band.
the Pulitzer Prize winning Jonathan Gold is beloved in LA because he uses the entire canvas, not just the same beaten path
he ventures, he explores, he speaks Spanish, he talks to people of all skin colors and religious beliefs.
LA is the home of more religions than any other city in the world.
it is the 2nd largest Spanish speaking city on the planet.
if all of your sources and all of your stories are about white folk, if all of your touchstones and goals and ideals are based in Caucasian ideals of the 1960s
then you aren’t really telling the story of LA of today.
i once dated a girl from canada who was blown away that so many billboards and handmade fliers were in Spanish
and how many brown skinned people there were on the streets
she said, this isn’t what it looked like in “Clueless”.
if you truly want to cover this city, and most of all, if you really want to love this city, you have to move out of West Hollywood
you have to break up with your boyfriend,
you have to stop taking taxis
and most of all you should start driving for Lyft.
then you will start to see the real story that is this beautiful city of angels.
it was a dream come true.
it had been something i had been thinking about since i had been in college.
and there i was.
and my shirt and sweater were dumb, and my pants were weird, and i didnt know what shoes to wear
and part of me was thinking “you’re the Blog Guy, you can be weird if you want!”
and most of me was thinking, “you gotta be able to get the print people to like and respect you SELL OUT SELL OUT!”
i dont think ive worn that shirt ever since, and i gave that sweater to the poor last Christmas.
totally forgot it was famous.
thats me and then-publisher David Hiller who right after that picture was taken said, “youre the blog expert, I have a blog but it isn’t very good. Do you have any advice?”
i said, “Mr. Hiller, I have some bad news for you. You have a great life and I have learned a little pattern over the years: Good life, crappy blog. Crappy life, great blog.” He laughed and I don’t think he ever blogged again.
as you can see from the stats at the bottom of this, 2017 will be the least prolific year in the 16 years of writing this blog. this will be post #311 this year with about two weeks left. some years i wrote 800 or 900 posts. OF GENIUS!
why so few this year?
is it because i have had a Good Life?
sure, let’s pretend that that’s the reason.
seems like theyre nervous about their parent company Tronc
which is the Tribune, of Chicago, which hasn’t really given them any reason to trust
first of all, dumb name, tronc, wtf.
next, they made the editors ALSO publishers which breaks so many rules of journalism
then they did weird things like try to get their execs to go to the Oscars
allegedly they took the tickets allocated to the writers and gave em to the Chicago bigwigs
then they fired a half dozen top editors
then when they realized a copy editor was married to someone they had just axed, they fired her too.
thats not exactly how you build trust.
and it’s not even journalistically sound.
hows about only fire people if they suck. dont fire them if they intimidate you or are married to someone you just canned?
it makes me doubly sad because i grew up reading Chicago journalism
and i spent four of my happiest years at the Times with many of these professionals
most of the time they were teaching me how to be professional.
the LA Times not only wanted the best writing and editing and photography and graphics and art and and and and but they also wanted it to be done correctly.
it was a slow process and not everyone was on board but for the most part the goal was simple: dont fuck up and you wont if you have the proper goals
accuracy was the properest of goals.
i remember the day Michael Jackson died. a bunch of outlets were saying he was dead and maybe he was dead but the whole world was waiting for the ultimate umpire of a Los Angeles tragedy to make the call.
our site nearly went down because so many people were refreshing their browsers.
at first we thought we were getting hacked or it was a virus because the traffic was crippling to the mighty site.
and when the news finally was published it was so bittersweet because finally we knew the truth
but the truth was so so so so sad.
but it was the truth, which is all that matters inside that building.
tronc fucked up in major ways in their relationship with the LA Times
they should have seen this coming, they should have seen that they created this.
but alas, they have different goals
and the satisfaction of the hard working and veteran LA Times staff has not been one of them.
which was so dumb it’s hard to believe.