The Right Side
THE FALL OF A GREAT NEWSPAPER
by Steven Travers
American Reporter Correspondent
San Francisco, Calif.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Los Angeles Times was one of the finest newspapers in the world; the voice of the New West, a land of electoral votes, emerging trends and Pacific Rim power. In the Jim Murray era, they presided over the "sports capitol of the world." During Watergate, the Times maintained balance and in-depth coverage while its Eastern counterparts became spigots of anti-Nixon vitriol. However, in stages over many years, their integrity became another casualty of liberal media bias.
Formerly run by the conservative Chandler family, they once reflected a conservative, Christian Southland. A look at historic Times headlines from their entertaining, self-published, coffee-table tome "Front Page" is revealing. The paper routinely screamed about "REDS" in their coverage of Alger Hiss's perjury case and the Korean War. During the McCarthy years, they took the position that Communism was a menace on a par with the Nazis defeated just a few years earlier. Part of the evil of Communism, the Times asserted, stemmed from its godless atheism. The modern Los Angeles Times does not dare take a true stand in pointing out the failure of Islam to control the terrorists in its midst.
In the 1950s, the Times understood that Communism was a threat not just from Moscow and Peking, but within our ranks. They were an early backer of Ronald Reagan, then the president of the Screen Actors Guild, who was weeding out "Reds" in Hollywood. The Times, unlike the New York Times, recognized the threat and made sure their readers did, too.
The Los Angeles Times endorsed California Senator Richard Nixon's assertions, eventually bolstered by the Venona project, that Mao Tse-tung's victory was preventable. Later, the paper sided with Nixon in backing General Douglas MacArthur in his battles against President Harry Truman.
In the 1960s, Otis Chandler decided to make his paper a world-class outfit. Accusations of conservative bias were no longer valid, but the Times did not allow itself to become as leftist as its New York and Washington counterparts. They endorsed Nixon against John F. Kennedy in 1960, but lost the chance to break the big news of the century's worst political crime by not thoroughly investigating how the Kennedys stole the election via vote fraud in Illinois and Texas.
They gave fair coverage to the 1962 Nixon-Pat Brown gubernatorial campaign, pointing out correctly that Governor Brown had created the state college system, modernized highways, and built aqueducts that brought needed water to the desert climate of the Southland. They also veered away from the "REDS!"-style headlines, choosing smaller typeface that allowed them to put more stories on its front page.
Chandler took a hard line on the 1965 Watts riots, which set the tone for the remainder of the decade. His paper supported the LAPD and Gov. Ronald Reagan's law and order policies. They pointed out that order was restored on California's college campuses during the Vietnam War, while at schools such as Columbia and Kent State, anarchism ran wild. Washington bureau chief Jack Nelson, a Southerner and veteran journalist, was tough but fair. But Chandler ceded control over time. By Reagan's second term, longtime Times subscribers realized they were reading an increasingly liberal paper.
Times editorials during the 1992 Bush-Clinton campaign failed to attribute the California recession to victory in the Cold War. The Republicans were victims of their own success, when much of the Southland-based military-industrial complex shut down in light of reduced need to defend against the beaten Soviets. Instead of pointing out this truth, the paper went to the old Democrat playbook, portraying an imperial George H.W. Bush as "out of touch" with average citizens.
The Times saw merit in "Hillarycare" despite mounting evidence that it was disguised socialism. They did not back off, however, when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, providing hard-hitting coverage that shed light on the President's seedy lies. But they played a major role in upending several California Congressmen who had supported Clinton's impeachment, most notably Representative James Rogan of suburban Glendale.
Thanks in part to liberal Times coverage, California was saddled with Governor Gray Davis in 1998 and 2002. The paper helped to chip away at the gains made during the 1994 Newt Gingrich-led "Republican Revolution." The result was a state eventually dominated by Democrats at the Federal and state legislative levels, leading to gerrymandered districts assuring more of the same. This scenario produced one of the great disasters in American political history, which was the genesis for the 2003 Recall.
The paper has certainly taken its share of principled stands. Eventually, they championed tough environmental regulations. Nobody who ever experienced L.A. smog in the 1970s could argue that it was not necessary. But on the hot button issue of illegal immigration, the paper sold out, failing to strongly endorse conservative attempts in recent years to control its porous borders.
When the paper was officially bought by Chicago's Tribune Co. at the end of the decade, its liberal slants and biases under then-editor Michael Parks were no longer balanced against the myth of "fairness," much less its former conservative character.
Carroll has tried to paint a different picture. He held an editorial meeting, prominently described for public consumption, in which he exposed talking points in stories that could be perceived as slanted, urging re-writes. This is the new falsehood of metropolitan news coverage. They apply minor triage on local crime stories in order to create the impression of straight journalism, but on the big political issues they are the mouthpieces of the DNC.
In the final days of the California recall, the Times published "last-minute" stories of Arnold Schwarzenegger's womanizing. The stories were a re-hash of a piece in Premiere magazine, printed years ago. Schwarzenegger's past is an open book. The stories presented less salacious details than most people imagine Arnold's rowdy life has had.
The Premiere piece indicates that while it was a legitimate story, it was old news. Instead, the Times became the willing partner of lame-duck Gov. Gray Davis, practicing the "puke politics" that have become the hallmark of desperate Democrats. In 2000, Al Gore's allies in the press held a similar story about George W. Bush's 1970s' drunk-driving arrest until they could explode a "last-second bomb."
Carroll's insistence that the stories and their timing were merited does not hold water in light of the Gray Davis stories they ignored. Davis had for years engaged in foul-mouthed tirades, while physically abusing employees. One woman quit and needed therapy. Davis left a message on her voicemail stating, "You know how I am!" Instead of honest, balanced coverage, the Times backed Davis and the Democrat scenarios. In so doing, they fell in line with San Francisco (outvoted by the rest of the state by 4-1), and out of line with the increasing population of the California hinterlands.
As a result of their longtime liberal trend, the Times is less influential now. While L.A. proper has gone Democrat, its surrounding environs - Orange County, the Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino, Kern County, the Navy town of San Diego, and North County - are Republican, choosing to read the sensible Orange County Register or other alternatives.
After Whittaker Chambers exposed the Communist Alger Hiss, an escaped dissident from Stalin's Russia explained to him that, "In America, the working class is Democrat, the middle class is Republican, and the upper class is Communist." The Times did not choose to make itself the paper of the upper class. But over time the motivations of the Left coalesced into anti-Americanism, and as they swung further from the leadership of Otis Chandler, so too did a once-great newspaper.
Steven Travers is the author "God's Country" and "Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman." Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.