By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Is a paper that has it in for liberals in one of America’s most liberal cities doomed to fail? Not if it finds its niche. The Daily News, with a political orientation certainly closer to that of New Times than to the Weekly or that Tribune property downtown, seems to be muddling along reasonably well, but its readership is confined to the Valley and its politics are calibrated to aging, white Valley homeowners. As an alternative paper, however, New Times felt the need to be snarky and hip at the same time it tried to advance viewpoints that often originated with such center-right figures as GOP consultant Arnie Steinberg and Dick Riordan. It sought to bridge that gap with a massive dose — or a lethal overdose — of attitude.
So here comes Hizzoner Dick Riordan, who has now decided that the easiest way to get his viewpoints into a paper is to own one. Riordan’s forthcoming L.A. Examiner is going to attempt to meet the neocon weekly challenge by marketing itself only to L.A.’s wealthiest. It’s hard to see in what sense Riordan’s venture even qualifies as an alternative. It could be a forum for such voices as that of Riordan’s neighbor, Brentwood resident Debra Krishel, who recently told the L.A. City Council that Chief Bratton’s proposal not to respond to burglar alarms could expose countless women and children to the threat of rape and murder “in the luxury of their own homes.”
Is this what the government has in mind when it ponders the need for another alternative? But why does the government even want to enter the business of selective political diversity? Once the government assigns itself the duty of maintaining an ideological balance in one medium, which happens to have an established political identity, but in no others, it’s inviting all kinds of trouble for itself. It is very likely that this case originates with shamefully underutilized government antitrust attorneys looking at issues of dividing up markets, but their selective invocation of a public interest in ideological matters makes their investigation look far more political than they doubtless intend. By playing the battle-of-ideas card against a historically left-wing medium, they confirm the fears of those who think this is just one more instance of John Ashcroft’s and the administration’s ceaseless right-wing bias.
That’s not where the state attorney general’s and the district attorney’s offices are coming from, I know, but hell — the Weekly did endorse Lynn Schenk over A.G. Bill Lockyer in the ’98 Democratic primary, and we’ve given more good press to State Treasurer Phil Angelides than to Lockyer over the past couple of years (though we did enthusiastically endorse Lockyer for re-election last year). We endorsed Steve Cooley for D.A., too, but we’ve criticized him for his handling of Rampart and other matters.
Sounds silly, right? But making a case on selectively applied ideological criteria necessarily calls into question the political motivations of the elected officials to whom the attorneys working this case must answer. If, in their spare time, those attorneys can persuade the Federal Communications Commission to restore the fairness doctrine for TV and radio, and the Justice Department to curtail the number of media outlets a Murdoch can control in a single city, then their intervention on behalf of greater diversity among weekly newspapers could serve a healthy purpose. But if you can’t pull that off, guys, I’d stick to the dollars-and-cents part of the case. You’re making me and Thomas Jefferson nervous.