L.A. Weekly News Editor Responds to L.A. Times Hit Piece

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times did not contact me for his takedown attempt on me June 19, a column published the same week that news stories I assigned and edited blew the Times out of the water at the Los Angeles Press Club awards. The awards, announced five days before Rainey’s harangue, were judged entirely by journalists in other major cities around the nation to avoid local favoritism. Then, the day before Rainey’s hit piece ran, freelancer Max Taves won a major award for a biomedical story that I assigned and edited, beating The New York Times.

It’s hard to imagine that Rainey wrote this attack without being bothered by a 2007 piece we at the Weekly published about him and his frequent use of blind sources while writing stories about his bosses at the L.A. Times. I assigned and edited that piece, by Luke Y. Thompson, whose report on Rainey used my approach: tough but factual, and filled with excellent sourcing.

I was very sad to see Rainey launch a wrong-headed attack on me without disclosing that I assigned and edited this story critical of him. Our story about Rainey was, in fact, far more extensively reported and far better sourced than his about me. You can see for yourself, by reading the link below. Rainey now tells me that he did not recall this story about him. Perhaps, but reporters are not often the subject of news stories, and it’s a very unusual thing to forget. In today’s tricky journalism world, it was Journo 101 that Rainey disclose it.

Rainey did contact some of our freelance writers, and asked them to “tell me what it’s really like to work with Jill Stewart.” Some said to me that when they insisted on speaking on the record, Rainey was not very interested in the positive things they had to say about me. He did, however, manage to use an off-the-record quote that fit his unfortunate view, shared by some old-guard reporters in L.A.: 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 links to recent posts about the Weekly hammering the L.A. Times and getting recognized for great news reporting when judged 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 other papers that have trimmed costs. We needn’t have worried. I and my stunning but small staff, including Christine Pelisek and Patrick Range McDonald, and terrific news freelancers including Tibby Rothman, Daniel Heimpel, Max Taves, Paul Teetor, David Ferrell, Beth Barrett and others, will just have to keep disappointing James Rainey and the L.A. Times.

Finally, we will not stop utilizing bloggers and nontraditional reporters at our alternative newspaper, despite Rainey’s troubling repeat of an old-guard journalist’s rant that such emerging voices are “laughable reporters.” We don’t knuckle under to anybody’s pre-approved list. So in this issue, check out our L.A. News piece about Laura Ling — by Babamoto.


Our hammering of the L.A. Times locally:

Beating The New York Times on biomedical coverage:

Christine Pelisek’s near-win in the Investigative Reporters and Editors competition for her “Grim Sleeper” cover story: (She won second place, but it’s a big win because the IRE award is considered by many to be more prestigious than a Pulitzer. The winning team comprised 14 reporters in 10 nations. Judges said that this huge team beat Pelisek — barely.)

Our 2007 piece on James Rainey:

This newspaper led the awards among major-circulation weekly newspapers, grabbing four first-place honors from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies at its 14th annual AltWeekly Awards last week in Tucson. Congratulations to all of our finalists and winners.

First Place: Darrick Rainey, Editorial Layout, for “Raven: Death of a Hollywood Beauty.”

First Place: Nancy Rommelmann, Arts Feature, for “No Exit Plan: The Life and Death of JT Leroy.”

First Place: Jonathan Gold, Food Writing, for “Breaking Free,” “Keep on Trucking” and “A Proper Brasserie.”

First Place: Laurie Ochoa and staff, Special Section, for “L.A. People 2008,” featuring photographs by Kevin Scanlon.

Third Place: Scott Foundas, Arts Criticism, for “Benjamin Button,” “Diary of the Dead” and “The Visitor.”

Honorable Mention: Ella Taylor, Arts Criticism, for “From Reverence to Rape,” “Waugh and Remembrance” and “Was Roman Polanski a Pedophile?”

Honorable Mention: Barry Isaacson, Feature, for “From Silver Lake to Suicide.”

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Booth, Cartoon, for “Mr. Fish.”


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