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The Least Read Editorial in America

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I don’t often pick up any section other than sports from the Los Angeles Times anymore, a trend that is pretty pronounced in Southern California. This morning, though, I was killing some time and paged through the “Current” section which is the ghastly remake of the traditional Sunday opinion section. Today’s front and back pages of Current are devoted exclusively to hip hop. Really. The op-eds are from Gregory Rodriguez, Jonathan Chait and Goodwin Liu. And the lead editorial –huge in its length– is titled >”The way forward in Iraq.”

Like I –or hundreds of thousands of other Golden State residents– am going to read that. The involuntary laughter at pretension that vast was followed by a head shake. They just don’t get it at Spring Street, do they?

Just a guess: No one on the editorial staff has a day’s experience in uniform, or a week’s run in the Pentagon or the White House. They are all college newspaper alums, and a couple have been to a lecture by a professor recently returned from Baghdad. Just a bunch of gasbags on the west coast telling each other they know the score, and “the way forward.” That’s actually funny beyond expression. It is a Holiday Inn commercial.

Wandering through the rest of the section’s pages I find that the always lively Matt Welch has an “Outside the Tent” column which blasts the Times for ignoring a big backyard story. So, Matt, what else is new? I admire his willingness to make the same point again and again, but we all already know that the paper doesn’t cover the city or the region.

Yesterday’s paper led with a long Tracy Wilkinson story, “Europe in Uproar Over CIA Operations,” which in fact confirmed there isn’t much of an “uproar” at all because there aren’t any major “CIA operations” underway but it no doubt played well in the newsroom. The same day the paper carried a Reuters report that in its understatement completely undercut the hype of the Wilkinson piece, a fact apparently lost on the mid-level editors who approved the breathless alarmism of the Wilkinson story. But this is Wilkinson’s MO –all anti-American, all the time.

Today’s front page carries a tragic story of an Army Colonel who apparently committed suicide in Iraq, and which the paper transparently exploits to push an anti-Iraq War line.

Buried back on page A-15 is the upbeat report on the electioneering underway in Iraq, which begins:

Despite continuing violence, Iraq’s lively and colorful political campaign season was in full swing Saturday, with candidates using the airwaves and the streets to grab voters’ attention before Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

The campaigning has included rowdy demonstrations, such as a downtown rally Saturday morning in support of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr and catchy radio jingles: “Come and salute our list,” a singer bellows during one ad for former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. “All parties are united on our list.”

Do you get the picture? The Los Angeles Times, confronted with plummeting circulation and ad revenue trends that would turn Medusa to stone continues to pump out an anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-American form of agenda journalism mixed with almost suicidal editorial choices on topic election. (There is a huge front page “Calendar” story leading to two full pages on, get ready, Shirley MacLaine!)

The Times is about to lay off another few score editorial employees and shake up their op-ed pages. This is round, oh, 30 of such things and the drift to red ink and irrelevance continues.

I used to think it was possible to turn the Times around. I don’t believe that anymore. It would take the sort of act of will from Chicago that cleaned out the aging lefties and not just Scheer, that promoted to full-time employment the local Matt Welches as opposed to giving them 750 words every six months, and which embraced an editorial approach that genuinely tried to entertain as opposed to re-educate. There’s too much inertia, too much bitterness, too much resignation to change the paper.

Bottom line: Why trust a failing newspaper that can’t find its way forward to advise the country on the way forward in Iraq?


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