Il Pastaio, an Italian restaurant in the heart of Beverly Hills’ commercial district, is Ground Zero for L.A.’s beautiful people. I wouldn’t be comfortable breaking bread with that crowd, a darn good thing because I couldn’t get a reservation even if I wanted to. I experience the restaurant vicariously, regularly walking my dog past the outdoor dining area hoping to spot a celebrity or two.
Il Pastaio on Thursday afternoon was the scene of a brazen crime. A woman was shot around 2 p.m. after three-armed men robbed another diner of his Richard Mille watch worth an estimated $500,000. The incident was obviously of great interest to me, as I’m one of the gawkers who regularly frequents the area.
Although I live within an easy 15-minute drive from Il Pastaio, I learned about the armed robbery reading the New York Post, which thought it newsworthy enough to feature on its home page. Wanting to know more, I turned to the L.A. Times expecting a big blowout of a story splashed across its home page. Instead, I was greeted with more of the newspaper’s agenda driven advocacy “journalism” focused on gender and race.
The Post this morning followed up with two more stories about the incident, including a feature explaining the appeal of a Richard Mille watch. I couldn’t find any coverage of the Il Pastaio robbery on my L.A. Times app, but a search revealed they ran a brief story on the robbery late yesterday. The story carried the bylines of three reporters, none of whom identified the make of the watch that was stolen.
Local newspapers are failing across the country, and mainstream journalists want to blame the internet, social media, Google, and other forces for the collapse. The real reason local newspapers are failing is because they have no connection to the communities they serve, and they are staffed by journalists who think their role is to educate the public about what they learned taking liberal arts, politics, and women’s studies courses in university.
For the past 11 months I’ve been writing about the implosion of Beaumont Health, Michigan’s biggest and once nationally renowned hospital network, for Deadline Detroit, an independent publication covering southeastern Michigan on a shoestring budget. Although polls show that healthcare is the number one concern for Americans, the local Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, have ignored Beaumont’s dramatic decline, including the recent death of a patient who died undergoing a routine colonoscopy.
Every day I receive at least one thank you note from a Beaumont staffer, a southeastern Michigan resident, or a doctor from around the country thanking me for aggressively covering Beaumont’s mismanagement, which a myriad other hospitals across the country are experiencing.
(Full Disclosure: I worked at the Detroit News in the 1980s, a once great newspaper that was destroyed by the disgraceful media company Gannett, which now owns the Free Press. Deadline Detroit is majority owned by my good friend and former Detroit News colleague Allan Lengel.)
The L.A. Times was once America’s greatest local newspaper. It was locally owned and so highly profitable that reporters travelled first class on long haul flights. The publication had bureaus across the U.S. and around the world, and it won more than its share of Pulitzer Prizes.
What fueled the Times’ success was its comprehensive coverage of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The Times was known as a “cops and courts” newspaper, and it devoted considerable space and resources to stories most of the publication’s current crop of reporters would consider beneath them to cover. The only cops reporting the Times is mostly interested in reporting on these days is where it can find examples of alleged racism.
The Times went into a downward spiral when it was sold in 2000 to a Chicago-based media company, which installed two hot shot journalists from the east coast, one of whom was Dean Baquet, now the executive editor of the New York Times. Baquet and his colleague, former Baltimore Sun editor John Carroll, dramatically cut back the Times’ local coverage, decimated its sizeable Orange County bureau, and staffed the paper with a slew of other east coast journalism cronies.
“We still haven’t mastered making the paper feel like it is edited in Los Angeles,” Baquet unashamedly told the New Yorker five years into his tenure.
Under the leadership of Carroll and Baquet, the Times was awarded a bevy of Pulitzer Prizes. It also lost 100,000 readers.
The Times in 2018 was thrown a lifeline when a well-meaning local biotech billionaire named Patrick Soon-Shiong agreed to take over the ailing newspaper, which is reportedly losing $50 million a year. Soon-Shiong was so bamboozled by the media establishment that he tried to lure Baquet back to run the Times, despite the editor being responsible for putting the L.A. Times into its initial tailspin. Baquet chose to remain with the New York Times, where he’s done an admirable job overseeing the destruction of that publication.
Instead, Soon-Shiong hired veteran business editor Norm Pearlstine, who had no previous experience running a local daily. Pearlstine’s tenure was riddled with controversy, and not surprisingly, failed to staunch the Times’ red ink because he, too, brought in a bunch of east coast journalists to staff the place. Pearlstine stepped down as editor last October.
The Times is a publication that is quick to shout “racism” regarding every incident where blacks are disadvantaged. An example is this column alleging that racism was behind the trend of stores going cashless at the height of the pandemic because Blacks disproportionately don’t have credit or debit cards. No, the policy was designed to reduce the spread of Covid. An unintended consequence was harmful to Blacks. The columnist offered no possible solutions, just levied a gratuitous charge of racism.
An example of the drivel that regularly appears in the L.A Times is this commentary by Virginia Heffernan lamenting how troubled the New York-based columnist was by the kindness of some Trump supporters who shoveled her driveway without asking after a recent snowstorm. Why anyone in L.A. should care about Heffernan’s spiteful insights, her Master’s degree in English literature from Harvard not withstanding, is beyond me. The New York Times has more readers in California than in its home tristate region and Angelenos in need of some hearty anti-Trump hatred can satiate their appetites reading that publication.
The Il Pastaio shooting was not a one-off incident. This week Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot and two of her dogs kidnapped in broad daylight. Eighteen robbery victims in 2021 had been shot in L.A. at the time of the incident, compared with just one shooting during the same period a year ago. Of the 18 shootings, 14 occurred on city streets.
Property crime also is soaring in L.A., thanks to Proposition 47, a 2014 bill which made theft of property below $950 a misdemeanor. One can rob a house in L.A. in the morning, get arrested, and rob another house or two a few hours later.
With crime soaring, one might expect the LAPD would be allocated more resources, particularly given that L.A.’s ratio of police officers to its population is among the lowest of major American cities. Instead, the city scaled back the LAPD’s budget, a move endorsed by the Times.
Soon-Shiong reportedly hired a New York-based headhunter to find Pearlstine’s replacement, but only one of the leading rumored candidates has experience running a city-focused daily, and her track record is far from impressive. Soon-Shiong would be wise to fire the headhunter and go speak with local journalist Alex Cohen, who knows, loves, and is committed to the Los Angeles area and runs circles around every network broadcast anchor. If Cohen doesn’t want the top job, she no doubt could provide a list of capable people deserving of the position.
Another option would be to identify who is responsible for overseeing the New York Times’ stellar coverage of Los Angeles and California. I learn more about the city and state reading the publication’s “California Today” report every morning than I do reading the L.A. Times.
Soon-Shiong denied a recent report that he’s looking to unload the Times so he can focus his efforts on developing a Covid vaccine. Frankly, I’m hoping the story is true. Los Angeles was hard hit by the pandemic, and we need a solution to the disease far more than we need a publication so far removed from the city’s issues it chose to relocate its newsroom to suburban El Segundo.