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Never Fear, The Lost Angeles Times Is On The Story

Sunday, August 1, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives has become a swamp of hysteria and excess, liberally covered with corruption. She promised to drain the House swamp and instead turned to breeding mosquitos. You can rest assured that while the crimes of Charles Rangel are unique, those of Maxine Waters’ aren’t. The serial antics of Alan Grayson and Anthony Weiner, the House’s clowns-in-chief– provide comic relief to the legislative mayhem, but it is the corruption that is now bubbling to the top after four years of Pelosi’s rule that will impact the fall’s voting.

The massive stimulus bill and the various bailouts provided every member of the House majority a chance to importune Obama Administration senior figures for sweetheart deals —in Waters’ case the allegation is that she did it for her own sweetheart, her husband. If the House shifts to the GOP, Darryl Issa will be very busy indeed with the gavel of the House Committee on Administration’s lengthy list of oversight needs which have been kicked to the side as the era of Chicago-politics-on-the-Potomac dawned in 2007.

The Waters’ investigations also throws a rare spotlight on my old pals at the Lost Angeles Times.

For the first 15 years of my 20 years in journalism, the Times’ astonishingly hard-left bias provided material for scores of television and radio shows and dozens of columns as well.

In recent years, though, the paper’s decline has been so precipitous and its influence on public events so limited, that there has been literally no reason to follow its continued decline, which has now reached comical levels.

A little background. Over the past few weeks a big scandal in California has been the staggering salaries and benefits packages payed senior government officials in the small city of Bell. (The chief bureaucrat was pulling down close to $800,000 a year and his annual pension will be in the neighborhood of $600K –for life.) The Times came to the story very late, long after the practice of paying wild salaries began, and the paper seems resolute in its refusal to dispatch its diminishing staff to investigate all California city and county pay and benefits structures, much less the ongoing scandals surrounding the operations of the state’s public pension funds. Because even though there might be readers for an extended, hard-hitting survey of the pervasive corruption of the public sector –and it is all the stuff of requests that must be filled under public records’ laws– it remains the Times: The last people left there are, well, way way left, so they have to worry about standard Times’ things, which don’t include covering salaries of local liberal elites and public bureaucracies. Today’s front page, for example, has an enormous above-the-fold piece on Skid Row (the first of four, very long parts!), another front-page, above the fold piece on –I do not kid here– focuses on Hezbollah’s “using newfound tools to ferret out spies watching Hezbollah.” There’s also a piece on Wall Street’s worry overwho will head the new consumer protection agency, and a little piece on YouTube’s latest 14-year old shopping guru, a nod to grandparents wondering what the grandkids might be up to as, assuredly, there are no 14 year olds reading the paper. Or 20 years olds. Or increasingly, anyone under the age of 65. The Times is a habit that is dying as its subscribers do.

Did I mention there’s a front page article on the futility of the Afghan war disguised as an assessment of July’s casualties.

What’s not to love about the Times! Patterico has long been the paper’s most comprehensive critic, but increasingly not even he can bring himself to spend much time on the least read, least influential major paper in America as it staggers along. Ninety-odd days from an election that will determine whether the state goes broke once an for all and whether the state’s most powerful figure, Nancy Pelosi, gets tossed, and not a whisper of the Speaker, Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer or Carly Fiorina is to be found on page one.

Page two of today’s paper reveals that Steve Lopez is indeed still alive, and he’s discovered there is a problem in Bell and a state pension crisis to boot! Page 7 alerts us that “Japan’s women step up to make the big purchases.” Page 12 has a nice story on Chelsea’s very wonderful wedding with a great couple of pictures.

And, look for it, there on the bottom of page 12 —a story about Maxine Waters!

You have to love the headline, which isn’t reproduced on the web site. In the paper, the headline is “House ethics trials highlight racial issues.”

Really, it does. You cannot make this stuff up.

The Times was all over, as it should have been, the corruption of Duke Cunningham back when the former fighter pilot was the focus of prosecutors.

But now that Maxine has the investigators bearing down on her, the story is on page 12 and the spin is that it is a racial issue, not standard-order Congressional corruption.

Because the Times simply does not matter, it isn’t worth doing a comparison of the early days of the ethics investigations against Tom Delay, Mark Foley or Cunningham. If we could prove conclusively and to the satisfaction of the faculty of the Columbia School of Journalism that the lefties at the Times systematically avert their eyes, energies and story emphasis and placement from the wrongdoings of Democrats and public employees at every level of government, what would be the point?

Everyone already knows this.

Everyone. It isn’t even debated. And because it isn’t even open to debate how far gone the paper is, the paper is, well, far gone. It is a dead paper, without energy or influence and, increasingly, advertisers.

Nobody really cares what the Times does or doesn’t cover. No doubt the paper’s “reporters” will try and submarine Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina as the lefties on Spring Street traditionally do for their Democratic pals in Sacramento and D.C. as elections approach.

But those stories won’t matter. TheTimes has all the relevance to California politics that the New York Herald Tribune has for the Big Apple.

An investigation into Maxine Waters, below the fold on p. 12, cast a a “racial issue.” That is truly funny. So too is a story on the spies that threaten Hezbollah on the front page on the same day that Waters’ corruption gets rebranded and buried.

That pair of stories is the very best measure of how far the Times has fallen.

No doubt the four parter on the homeless will be nominated for the Pulitzer. It may even win. And then everyone in the newsroom at the Times will celebrate and wonder how they can have so few readers and so little impact.

.

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