One of the more loathsome aspects of reading East Coast media coverage of L.A. is seeing the nation's largest county treated as a foreign oddity rife with all the expected stereotypes.
La La Land? Yoga-posing, gluten-free dieters? Spotlight-obsessed celebrities? The usual suspects are easy to find. Rarely do we seem to see a reflection of Los Angeles as the nearly 50-percent-Latino, Asia-facing, culture-producing megalopolis that it actually is. Imagine if L.A.-based outlets covered New York with such brazen disregard for geography, facts and demographics. Fuhgeddaboudit. (See? Lame, isn't it?)
Here are five of our favorite flubs from the East Coast:
5. A look at L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in the New York Times (well-written by an otherwise exceptional journalist who's actually from here!) got the geography wrong. It's a common error. East Coast copy desks need to put a Los Angeles Thomas Guide map on their desks.
The piece said L.A.'s official mayoral residence, Getty House, is “a traditional Tudor mansion in the heart of Hancock Park.” It's in Windsor Square. Worse yet, the story says Garcetti's Silver Lake home is “on this city's hip east side.” Ugh. Like a lot of folks, we have a problem with the media identifying neighborhoods west of downtown as Eastside. (Although, yes, even LA Weekly has made this mistake.)
4. The New Yorker's Meghan O'Rourke spent a few months in L.A. and lived to tell about it. “After spending four months in the land of kale chips, sunshine and helicopters, my list is almost entirely consumed by thoughts about driving,” she writes. Original and hilarious. It goes on and on:
It used to be the case that L.A. seemed utterly different from Eastern cities in one crucial way: it was already hauntingly apocalyptic, a place of steep hills, deep predator-filled canyons, terrible earthquakes, and winds bearing plutonium from Japan.
3. We give extra credit to this Gawker story about Oscar season celebrity “swag” for mixing stereotypes about L.A. with mangled geography:
Beverly Hills announces itself with shiny cars and shinier lawns: Tesla dealership, Porsche dealership, Ferrari dealership, Church of Latter Day Saints headquarters with a rolling lawn so pristine it must, must, must be maintained by cult members.
Shiny lawns? Are Beverly Hills residents putting Paul Mitchell hair care products on their grass? That church, by the way, is way over in … Westwood, two communities west of B.H! The piece drones on horribly:
The people demonstrated a fast-paced impatience that I found at odds with the fact that most probably did not have a real job.
2. In October a local journalist profiled 'Freeway' Rick Ross, L.A.'s original crack kingpin, in Esquire magazine. The scribe could have really used a compass, because we're not sure he ever knew where he was.
The piece says ” … the 110 Freeway links the port of Long Beach with downtown L. A. … ” Huh? Any look at a map would show that the freeway doesn't make it to Long Beach city limits.
It gets better:
It runs through the eastern side of the city, paralleling the coastline, passing near the Watts Towers, the L. A. Memorial Coliseum, the USC campus, and the Staples Center before merging with Interstate 10.
The freeway actually runs slightly west of the center of old Los Angeles, Main Street, and it flows into Pasadena long after you've passed the 10. But wait, there's more:
After the 1992 riots, people of color began to refer to a place called Soweto South of Pico Boulevard – the geographical line of demarcation between the haves and have-nots in Los Angeles.
WTF? Soweto South? In all our years covering L.A., we had never heard of it. We had to Google it, and soon we found a similar reference in a book by that ultimate authority on Los Angeles turf, hair-metal god Vince Neil. Really. As for Pico being a demarcation, keep in mind that such tony communities as Cheviot Hills and Beverlywood are south of Pico.
1. Finally, of course, there's this all-time favorite – GQ's declaration that downtown L.A. is ” “the new cool capital of America.” Somehow the magazine paints the center of America's second largest metropolis as a place that was once “an empty city … waiting to be rediscovered and reoccupied.” Ugh. We could go on, but you can read our original takedown here.
See also: GQ Proclaims L.A. Is Hip – Again.
The moral of the story? The big difference is that when West Coast publications cover New York stories, there's mad reverence and respect for the city that never sleeps. When it's the other way around, it seems like there's rarely any of that. Condescension is often the default stance.