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New York Times' Arthur Brisbane Questions Paper's Past Criticism of Los Angeles Times in Wake of L.A. Paper's Pulitzer Wins

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Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 4:13 PM
click to enlarge Ruben Vives celebrates his L.A. Times Pulitzer co-win. - ROBERTJLOPEZ / YOUTUBE
  • robertjlopez / YouTube
  • Ruben Vives celebrates his L.A. Times Pulitzer co-win.

Updated after the jump: Slate media critic Jack Shafer weighs in, saying it's possible for the L.A. Times to both win Pulitzers and be "in steep decline."

Earlier this year we noted how the Los Angeles Times was "becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of local media" after the New York Times wrote that it was a "unifying force of complaint" in L.A.

It was a harsh slap at the local paper, who many believed had turned a corner since its takeover by Sam Zell.

It looks like the NYT is acknowledging its erroneous spin over the weekend following the L.A. Times' Pulitzer Prize wins last week. Public editor Arthur Brisbane, in his Sunday column, had to ask if it was ...

... the same Los Angeles Times that was roundly dissed in a New York Times news story in January? Yes, the same one. As it turned out, the Los Angeles Times had won the most prized of the Pulitzers -- the gold medal for public service, which is given for exceptional coverage that results in significant change.

Yep. The L.A. Times now has more public service Pulitzers -- the top prize in journalism -- than any other paper, including that one in Manhattan.

And while Prius-driving Westsiders still love to slam the hometown institution while sipping their Coffee Bean lattes over a morning read of the NYT, the L.A. paper still kicks much ass, as Brisbane admits:

Taken together, the Los Angeles Times's work was in the best journalistic tradition of rooting out hard-to-get stories in places that might otherwise be ignored -- coverage, in the immortal adage, that comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

Listen, we have our problems with the L.A. Times, including its perennial [added:] near-perennial (we've been shown examples, but somehow they rarely lead back to the Weekly, the second-most-read news organization in Los Angeles) inability to link to or acknowledge the competition those rare times when it gets beat (ahem).

But it's still one of the top three papers in the country (sorry Wall Street Journal, but after your Murdochian takeover and the killing of your front page features, we have to wonder if you still belong in the top-four club).

And well, pretty much anything in the Times is better than reading the earth-shattering news of earthquake banners in Beverly Hills.

Update: Slate media critic Jack Shafer says the L.A. Times could both be "in decline" and a Pulitzer Prize-winning org at the same time:

Only a muttonhead would insist that a couple of major journalistic awards instantly translate into editorial excellence for an entire daily newspaper. Awards such as the Pulitzer honor the work on the page, not the entire publication. So it's entirely possible for the Los Angeles Times to win Pulitzers without damaging the New York Times' perceived thesis that the Los Angeles Times is a newspaper in steep decline--which it is, as any regular Los Angeles Times reader can tell you.

First posted at 3:06 p.m. on Monday, April 25.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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