LA Weekly News Editor Jill Stewart responds to LA Times' Jim Rainey

Here's the letter I sent out early this morning to friends and colleagues about the attack column published in the LA Times today and written by James Rainey. On the following page, you'll see some of the support I've received today from writers and others. I've emailed this letter to James Rainey and the LA Times.

Hi there,
I wanted to tell my colleagues and friends in journalism and blogging that
James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times did not contact me for his take-down
attempt column about me today, published during the very same week in which
news-side stories I assigned and edited blew the Times out of the water at
the Los Angeles Press Club awards. These awards, announced five days ago,
were judged entirely by journalists in other major cities around the nation
to avoid local favoritism. And then yesterday, a young reporter who won a
major award for a piece that I assigned and edited beat The New York Times
and was in Washington, D.C., collecting his award.

It's hard to imagine that James wrote this attack without being bothered by
a piece we at the Weekly wrote about James and his frequent use of blind
sources while covering his bosses. I am the editor who assigned and edited
the piece about James Rainey by Luke Y. Thompson. Luke's report on Jim was a
classic Weekly story, assigned and edited by me, tough but factual, and
filled with excellent sourcing.

I am very sad to see Jim launch a wrong-headed attack on me without
disclosing that I assigned and edited a story critical of him in 2007. Our
story about Jim was, in fact, far more extensively reported and much better
sourced than his about me. You can see for yourself, in the link at the end
of my note. In today's tricky journalism world, it was basic Journo 101 to
disclose.

Jim did contact some of the paper's freelance writers over the past week or
two, and asked them to "tell me what it's really like to work with Jill
Stewart." I know because they alerted me to Jim's upcoming piece. Some tell
me that when they insisted on speaking on the record, Jim was not very
interested in the positive things they had to say. He did, however, manage
to use an off-the-record quote that fit his unfortunate view, shared by some
old guard reporters in Los Angeles: that my aggressive form of journalism is
not good for people.

Judges of media competitions around the country disagree. I disagree. Many
disagree. Below are my recent blog posts about the Weekly hammering the LA
Times
and getting recognized for our great news reporting and writing when
compared against the nation's biggest papers in media competitions.

Some of us at the Weekly were worried about winning local awards this year
because we submitted fewer articles to the Press Club competition, as did a
lot of papers who trimmed costs. We needn't have worried. With my stunning
but small staff of news reporters including Christine Pelisek and Patrick
Range McDonald, and my terrific news freelancers including Tibby Rothman,
Daniel Heimpel, Max Taves, Paul Teetor, David Ferrell, Beth Barrett and
several others, we'll just have to keep disappointing Jim Rainey and the LA
Times
.  - Jill

Our hammering of the LA Times locally:
http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/media/la-weekly-best-in-southern-cal/

Beating NYT for biomedical news coverage:
http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/media/max-taves-and-la-weekly-beat-n/

Christine Pelisek's near-win at IRE for "Grim Sleeper": (In a way, although
it is a second place, it's our biggest win because this contest is
considered by many to be above a Pulitzer. The team who beat Christine was
comprised of 14 reporters in ten nations. The judges said that team managed
to beat our one reporter -- barely.)
http://blogs.laweekly.com/ladaily/pelisek-finalist-at-ire-agains/

Our piece on James Rainey:
http://www.laweekly.com/2007-02-15/news/covering-the-bosses/

The following are snippets from some of the many supportive comments I received today from writers, editors, bloggers, activists and others.

Weekly freelancer Tibby Rothman: "As a columnist, James Rainey has the right to any point of view he likes.  But in this particular piece he does exactly what he accuses my editor of:  building narrative at the expense of inclusion of facts that might contradict his perspective.

"I spoke to Jim on the record, but what I said to him did not fit in with the ultimate story line and wasn't included. As a columnist, he didn't have to promote my position but I think that's a little disingenuous in a story that holds another journalist's practice-of-the-field to the fire, not to at least cite a divergent source.

"Although I did not keep notes of our conversation, I believe I told Jim that I had my arguments with Jill, like any writer and their editor, but that when it came to matters of substance rather than writing style--in almost every case---if I presented solid arguments to her, in terms of why reporting should be in or out of a story, I prevailed.

"So much for the pedagogue. This is even more valid given the types of stories I've done for Jill. I pointed out to Jim that a number of the pieces that she has assigned me at the Weekly could have been published in any era of the storied publication's history.

"I told Jim that one of my earliest stories for the Weekly systematically dismantled a law enforcement contention that a paramilitary-style anti-gang raid on the Westside had been highly successful. We reported that rather than finding gang members and drugs, law enforcement busted in on grandparents, mothers and children. No editor at the LA Times dedicated reporter-hours to the story. In fact, the LA Times published a light piece based on a press conference that accepted City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo's claims as fact."

Veteran, award-winning investigative reporter Beth Barrett: "The Times seems to me to be feeling the heat from one of the best editors in town and fearful it's being outshone by the Weekly, which it is. I'm getting more comments than ever from people around town about the Weekly and its investigative work. The Times has a way of trying to undermine anyone better than they are - witness {former Daily News editor] Ron [Kaye]. Anyway, I'm proud to have even a modest affiliation with the Weekly and glad you're clobbering the Times."

Former LA Times Web Page Opinion Editor Tim Cavanaugh: "If you need a testimonial, the one long piece I worked on with you was a great experience."

Writer Joseph Mailander: "I find it funny that Jim didn't ask opinions of anyone who has had good

experiences with Jill as their editor. I've worked with lots and lots

of editors, and my experience is Jill's the best in LA."

Democratic activist Miki Jackson: "I had wondered when they would waddle to the defense of Prince Antonio. They are the last people in town who haven't copped to his act.

Even Los Angeles Magazine, which is usually nothing more than a bastion of civic boosterism with an occasional 'true crime' feature thrown in, called that one -- after you and Patrick [Range McDonald} pulled the covers on the downtown Prince.

"As long as they have all that real estate they will be unable to do much decent local reporting. They are too busy kissing rings and trying to  bolster property values. As [a friend] says of them, if it happens in downtown Fallujah we'll read about it, but if it happens in downtown LA we'll never know.

"Have that framed and display it prominently. By your detractors so shall you be honored."

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