Worn Down But Not Out

The Art Deco LA Times home will be vacated for new digs in El Segundo, South of LAX

Steve Lopez as been in the newspaper business for 43 years. And his piece in Sunday’s LA Times about the state of his newspaper may be one of his best. In it, he describes the state of the printed form of the fourth estate, the LA Times in particular, and his feelings on the subject. He also shows a little hope that the paper’s new owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong will help right the ship and make the paper vital again.

The new owner is obviously a very smart guy, having been a talented surgeon, inventor and now philanthropist. But whether he can reverse a trend that is not only nagging an industry but also leading to a malaise of societal ignorance is the question.  He seems to think so, investing $500 million into the purchase.  And he also is working on making employees believers, with a Friday visit to the downtown offices of the Times to speak to his soon to be new employees.  But not everything he’s done has turned to gold.  That’s what risk taking is all about.

BTW – the Times will be vacating their home of over 80 years when they move out of their 1935 Art Deco digs and move to El Segundo.  The Omni Group purchased the properties in 2016 for at least $105 million and will convert them to upscale housing.

Part of what makes news interesting is the telling of the story. And nobody does it better than Lopez. At least for the time being. Read his piece here: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-news-041152018-story.html


“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy…”












Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns 170 TV stations around the US, recently forced all of its affiliates to record a scripted piece on how other news outlets are promoting fake news without checking the facts first. While the actual message isn’t horrible, the fact that this edict was set down as ‘must read’ to all Sinclair broadcasters is eerily Stepford Wives like. True journalistic enterprises never force their on-air talent to parrot words in this manner.

Sinclair is in the process of buying another 40 stations now controlled by Tribune Company. With this purchase, Sinclair will reach 72% of American households.

In their own words, I agree that ‘ this is extremely dangerous to our democracy’.  Watch how Deadspin put it all together on video here:


Your data is worth $5.20

A good piece by in today’s Los Angeles Times describes how Facebook has allowed others to harvest its data for a variety of uses in the recent past. While this was going on, Facebook is accused of willful ignorance of the problem such access would allow to diminish their legal liability for the use of the data.

Harvesting of consumers personal information on the Internet has ramped up to the point where companies will pay up to $5.20 per data set for such information, which can then be used to market to consumers or on the dark web for nefarious reasons. Consumers and regulators needs to zero in on what’s going on so that consumer protections can be put in place.  And big data companies such as Facebook  need to take action to prevent such releases of information. If you’ve ever suffered from identity theft, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Read the LA Times piece here:

Thanks to Peter Douglas…

Steve Lopez is a true gem. His columns in the LA Times live by the credo that the job of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Today’s piece focuses on the Coastal Protection Act, which set the stage for protecting our coast from those who would wish to block access or diminish its beauty and value to us all.
Written by the late Peter Douglas, the protection act has stood the test of time, even if those

Lopez pulls no punches in his disdain for many of the California Coastal Commission, who have proven themselves to be greedy, dishonest props for developers and others.

I especially like Lopez’s take on Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla, who he says is someone ‘who has established himself as one of the most arrogant people in state history.’

Like Woody Guthrie before him, Douglas knew that we have to fight to keep things available to all and unspoiled.

The fight goes on…


Putting words in your mouth (literally)

Fake news has taken many forms in the 21st century but the most insidious may be software using algorithms to create mouth movements that turns audio clips into realistic videos as if the person is saying the words. And with similar technology, recorded voices can be manipulated into creating speech that didn’t occur at all.  Together, these new technologies can trick even linguists into believing that a person said what they never did (or would). Two examples below.

Presidents Trump and Obama speaking in Mandarin

President Obama mouthing words from one source posted to another

One from the peanut gallery …

One of the most interesting parts of any newspaper is the letters to the editor,  where people who care enough send comments, generally about stories of the day but sometimes on topics yet to be explored.

This letter in today’s LA Times is to the point and expresses a viewpoint on how things have changed in the past 40 years.  It’s a good view-point that most of us should consider.


A story of straw poverty…

Manger in Stable

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus but Robert Barron’s piece in today’s LA Times changed that and made me ponder the baby and the circumstances of his birth.   Citing a quote from Bono, the lead singer of the group U2 as inspiration, Barron makes an interesting case which is worth a read…Merry Christmas!


Al Franken’s final speech

Al Franken, the sixty-six year old former SNL writer and actor was elected to the U.S. Senator as a democrat from Minnesota in 2008. He did a good job of representing his constituents during his time in Washington and was recently brought down for unseemly behavior towards women.

What is interesting is that the penalty dispensed to similar perpetrators is uneven. The difference seems to be in part tied to how recalcitrant the person accused of such indescressions displays.

Al Franken and Garrison Keillor, admitted to wrongdoing, apologized and were forced out.  President Trump and Roy Moore deny culpability, branding the many women who have come forward to accuse them as liars and either remain in their position or refuse to admit election defeat.

“I feel that we are losing the war for truth” said Franken towards the end of his 38 minute final dispatch.

Watch the speech from earlier today here: http://wapo.st/2zbnbwP


This photograph, taken in 1826 or 27, shows empty streets when in fact there were horses and carriages moving along them.

With the tragedy of the Thomas fire in Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties this week I’ve been taking a lot of images, which got me thinking about how photographs record history. This morning’s Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece by Paul Manseau about how 2017 may be the year we argued about the evidence in front of our eyes.

Since their inception in roughly 1825, photographs have been used to inform and deceive viewers on what actually happened. The first example illustrated in the story is about a photograph taken by Louis Daguerre showing a street scene with a man getting a shoeshine next to empty streets. In fact there were horses and carriages on that street but because of the delayed exposure time needed to create the photograph, they had come and gone before the image finished.

Fake news has been around a long time but has reached its zenith due to slanted news organizations and the rise of social media, where anyone can deliver information to the masses.

I spoke to an attorney friend of mine this morning who reminded me that for photographs to be admissible in court, they have to be attested to by an eyewitness.

The old average adage what you see is what you get is no longer accurate.


Omega Man

Erik Brady, from USA Today, is my wife’s cousin’s husband.  And after 35 years, he still works there.  In fact, he is the last founding staffer (which they call ‘founders’) from the original 320 people who started the paper back in 1982 (also known as the Pleistocene Age). The word founder was an honorific given those who began working for the newspaper during 1982.  Perhaps a different word than ‘honorific’ could be found as it is perhaps too similar to words more foreboding (horrific, etc…).

Back then, A guy named Al Neuharth had a vision for a national newspaper with brief news stories that could be read in a minute.  Maybe two for the longer pieces.  He realized two things:  many people were too busy to read long form journalism (too bad really as it is contributory to the decline of western civilization) and that if he could publish really tight smaller newspapers, he’d make more money.

And so with much fanfare, USA Today was launched.  Since that time, it is most widely known for short stories, inventive newspaper vendor box design and for occupying hotels large and small throughout all 50 states.  And it lives on today (although I haven’t read one for quite a while).

Erik had one of the best jobs in the world, covering sports.  Whether it be the Olympics, Super Bowl or other penultimate sporting event, Eric was there.  I’ve been jealous from afar for a long time.

One last quip – Neuhearth was fond of being a hard nose to those who worked for him, often writing in the margins of memos that made it to his office FIX IT.  He meant it.

After reading a book about him decades ago, I took that to heart and sometimes find myself even now using his plain speaking manner to get the best out of the people I work with.  In this tough business, nothing else will do.

Read Erik’s piece about his time at USA Today below: