That could have been the broadcast tease for a mistake last week that is sure to go down as one of the most colossal screwups in the extremely screwy annals of local television news. While covering the murder of an Anaheim boy, KTTV Channel 11 inexplicably ran the picture of KVEA Channel 52 news staffer Juan Carlos Gonzalez as a suspect. Needless to say, Gonzalezs only connection to the crime was that he was covering it for his own station. Numerous mea culpas, also known as retractions, went out over the next three days, both on air and over the telephone. But what the hell happened?
Well, it seems that while interviewing neighborhood residents near the murder scene, Gonzalez was asked for his photograph. He obliged with an autographed glossy, then went back to the station to file his report. Enter KTTVs news team, which arrived without an actual reporter to get some footage. Investigative journalists that they are, they quickly deduced that Gonzalezs photograph must be of the boys stepfather, the alleged killer. After all, the suspect was described as Hispanic and male, and Gonzalez is Hispanic and male. Never mind that police were freely offering a mug shot of the real suspect.
Back at KVEA, they flipped on Foxs 10 p.m. newscast only to see, much to their surprise, a photograph of the putative suspect that looked just like their reporter.
We immediately called over there [Fox KTTV Channel 11] and told them, You just put the wrong picture up, says KVEA station manager Eduardo Dominguez. But by that time the story had already been reported.
Fox was suitably chagrined. It was our mistake and we apologize for it, says Rita Nazareno, a KTTV spokeswoman. Gonzalez did not return telephone calls. But OffBeat wonders whether the chasm between the citys English- and Spanish-language news teams isnt getting a little too big. Who here thinks colleagues would slap pictures of Harold Green, Paul Moyer or John Beard on the screen as murder suspects without asking a few questions first? If so, Ive got a building for sale. Name of Belmont . . .Sandra Hernandez
Elian Gonzalez fever has hit. Images are everywhere of the 6-year-old boy caught up in a bizarre international custody battle between Cuba and the U.S. after the death at sea of his mother. And politicians are scrambling over themselves to make the pilgrimage to Miami or Havana to invoke Little Elians blessings in the hope of healing their political careers.
The endless news coverage of the story has led to some interesting examples of selective memory on the part of Republicans regarding past immigration practices. Take Representative Dan Burton, who subpoenaed the boy to appear on Capitol Hill in a move to prevent him from returning to his father in Cuba. Appearing on CNBCs Hardball, with Chris Matthews, the Indiana Republican could not remember his partys practice of passing private bills to legalize favored immigrants, nationalities otherwise excluded by the GOPs draconian immigration policies. From the program transcript:
Matthews: You can always just pass one of those special bills, right? Or are those days over where you can simply write a bill for the release of Elian Gonzalez and give that guy the right to stay?
Burton: Well, yes, and I believe some of the members of Congress are looking into that right now. I think Connie Mack and some others are thinking of introducing a bill, and they may do that.
Matthews: That was a fairly common thing in the bad old days of the Immigration Subcommittee. You remember that when you headed up the Immigration Subcommittee, dont you? You used to be able to buy those babies. It was rampant up there. If you were Immigration Subcommittee chairman, you were the gatekeeper of immigration, werent you? With those special bills they used to pass on those interesting Wednesday afternoons? Or whatever they were?
Burton: You have wisdom that goes beyond me. Cause I dont remember that.
Matthews: Well, I do.
Flatly contradicting her colleague, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) baldly declared on yet another talk show that private bills are used routinely to legalize favored immigrants. And she ought to know: In August, Ros-Lehtinen co-authored (along with two other Florida Republicans) a bill to grant undocumented Colombians and Peruvians living in the U.S. (namely Florida) immigration amnesty. Not coincidentally, the generally conservative immigrants could help the GOP in upcoming state elections.
Among the bills co-authors was Representative Bill McCollum (R-Florida), who was dubbed the Darth Vader of immigration for his attitude toward less politically desirable new arrivals.
And what does Little Elian make of all this? Although, to our knowledge, the question hasnt been put to him, we already know the answer: absolutely nothing. A 6-year-old child doesnt look further than the PlayStation joystick in his hand to decide what to think. That hasnt stopped Republicans from trotting out all kinds of purported statements from the bereaved child and from the nun who arranged his reunion with his grandmothers, even from his dead mother to bolster their claims to keep him in the U.S Sandra Hernandez
Real Estate Bingo
Whenever OffBeat despairs of finding something decent to read in the local monopoly rag, we turn to what is indisputably the best newspaper product of its kind in the nation: the L.A. Times Sunday real estate section. In the Hot Property column, we thrill to the news of every sitcom washout or studio executive-we-never-heard-of making $.2 million on the sale of their $4.7 million Lake Sherwood estate. Last week, we were particularly intrigued to read that Robert Nesen, Reagans ambassador to Australia and a former Valley Cadillac dealer, has his Hidden Valley ranch up for sale. The Doric-columned brick classic was remodeled in 1995 to resemble the American embassy in Canberra, we learned. Not that anybody outside of the southern latitudes has ever seen the embassy in Canberra, but were thinking of adding the house to our out-of-towners driving tour.
The R.E. story of the week, however, came not in the Hot Property column but in the conveniently titled Hot Properties ad that ran right below the column jump. There, nestled amidst the Brentwood Cliff May contemporary and the Encino knoll-top 9,000-square-footer, was a picture of a desert airstrip. Thats right, an airstrip, although the ad helpfully states that Agua Dulce Airport could be purchased for $3.3 million to build your dream estate(s) or subdivision, as well.
Built in 1958 as part of an abandoned fly-in subdivision, the desert strip north of Los Angeles between Palmdale and Newhall has fallen on hard times. Much of its revenue now comes from film-shoot fees. We tried to talk to real estate guy Geoffrey C. Lands about this unique property, but he rang off a bit testily after telling us, Ive been working very hard to sell this property for the past six months. If youre interested in buying it, then Im interested in talking to you. We were left to contemplate what it means to live in a soap-bubble city where pretending to be an airstrip is worth more than actually being one, and where one mans dream estate can turn into anothers tract-home nightmare with a flip of a real estate agents hand.