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Michael Lacey Rips Rainey and Cooper

Political Journalist of the Year Daniel Heimpel with friend Beatrice and second-place Features winner Patrick Range McDonald.
Los Angeles Press Club

Los Angeles Times media columnist James Rainey attempted to pass off an ad hominem attack on L.A. Weekly’s news editor, Jill Stewart, as his own thoughtful criticism in his L.A. Times column on June 19. In fact, he merely channeled the attitude of another writer, Marc Cooper, a bitter ex–Weekly columnist who nurses a personal grudge against Stewart.

On June 1, only 18 days before Rainey’s column, Cooper blogged: “What does continue to amaze if not slightly nauseate me is the continuing silence of the L.A. Times on the slow and marked decline and effective death of L.A. Weekly. Media writer James Rainey has not touched the subject even though there has been one upheaval after another at the Weekly for the last four years. I have constantly prodded him to do so ... to no avail.”

Cooper not only inspires Rainey, but he is virtually Rainey’s only named source.

Rainey expressed regret that the Weekly no longer is “faithfully pro-union, lefty. ...”

Imagine, because we avoid doctrinaire claptrap, we find ourselves not measuring up.

Although Rainey himself describes Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as an “unctious glad-hander — an ambitious climber,” he chides the Weekly for being too hard on this silly politician. He also thinks the Weekly was mean to the chief of police and that the paper practices “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey journalism.”

Whatever will become of alternative weeklies that are hard on public officials and committed to investigative journalism?

To bolster his analysis, Rainey quoted Cooper: “Laughable reporters were brought in to scribble highly ideological pieces that reflected Stewart’s worldview.”

Just five days before Rainey regurgitated Cooper’s worldview, Stewart and her reporters dominated the Los Angeles Press Club awards banquet. Commenting on some of her writers, the judges made remarks including: “... represents the best of what investigative journalism should be: dogged determination, skepticism of authority, and insatiable curiosity” and “... dares to challenge political correctness and the status quo, making him an essential voice ...”

For the sake of brevity, allow me to limit the plaudits and cut to the chase. Why is Marc Cooper so peptic?

When we dispensed with Cooper’s column, few took note, e-mails did not rain down upon us, the Columbia Journalism Review did not question our judgment. Except for Cooper’s blog, where he bled thousands upon thousands of words about the demise of the Weekly, the world continued apace.

This was actually the second time we have dismissed Mr. Cooper.

When he worked for us at Los Angeles New Times he demanded that Jill Stewart be fired. It was him or Jill.

It was him.

He is not just a bitter, disgruntled former employee; he is all that, squared.

What was Stewart’s offense?

She had dared to expose the fabrications, exaggerations and falsehoods of Los Angeles author Mike Davis, Cooper’s soul mate.

Davis is a self-described “Marxist environmentalist,” a political identity in Russia, by the way, more endangered than a Chernobyl titmouse.

Frankly, unmasking Davis’ reliance upon whoppers to manufacture an apocalyptic vision of Los Angeles was hardly Stewart’s most difficult challenge. Davis once published in the long-ago Weekly his interview with a prominent environmentalist, which was entirely made up.

Davis later admitted the con job and alibied that he was only attempting to learn how to do journalism.

Before Cooper learned how to do journalism, he spent a formative year as a translator for the first ever Marxist elected head of state in the Americas, Chile’s Salvador Allende. He witnessed firsthand the CIA-sponsored coup and escaped Pinochet’s bloody retaliation.

His vivid experience may explain his appreciation for Davis’ worldview; Cooper, after all, really survived an apocalypse.

But Rainey’s shiftless echo of Cooper’s attack on Stewart has no such underpinning and is therefore insipid.

Rainey’s column begs the question: What was he thinking? The answer: He wasn’t thinking; he was simply repeating.

He can keep his “lefty,” end-of-times vision of Los Angeles.

I opt for independent, tough-minded journalism.

I opt for Jill Stewart and her writers.


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