James Rainey wrote about Jill Stewart in Friday's Times, and I'll have more to say about that after I get through a round of correspondence aimed at removing him from his current assignment and reassigning him to something safer, as I am trying also to do with Jim Newton at Rainey's paper. Meanwhile, let's point out a few obvious facts while they are rattling around my head.
First off, Rainey's up a tree with his premise. The Weekly has always practiced subjective journalism, and openly. (The Times, on the other hand, has always practiced subjective journalism locally, but has tried to pass it off as objective.) Nonetheless, the fact that the current Weekly perspective doesn't suit Rainey (it doesn't perfectly suit me, either) does not mean anything is wrong with the Weekly; it just means to find another paper if you don't like this one.
The point of view of the editors at the Weekly has always been that the writer is important to the story without fully entering it. For Rainey to say that the Weekly "employled more semantic spin that Kobe Bryant puts on a jump shot," he's just talking about something that is pure fantasy: he's trying to paint a case for celebrating the quaint notion journalistic "objectivity," which we all know by know is mere white male subjectivity. The Weekly's approach is far more honest; you know where it's coming from. The Weekly comes at you from a point of view; it's not Rainey's, it's not Jill's either, but a point of view is always evident. The failing Los Angeles Times also comes at you from a point of view that is nobody's in particular, but it's typically hidden, and the editors add their value by disguising it as best they can. Rainey must have missed that lesson in j school.
Rainey must have also missed the fact that his own editorial and op-ed pages would not so much as even mention the names of rival candidates in the month preceding the latest Mayoral election. Also, they've missed the story that Villaraigosa's popularity has fallen like a rock in this town. Of course, it's easier to criticize some other paper than criticize your own, I well realize, but Rainey here becomes that weakest kind of scribe of all: the kind who kisses the asses of politicians and attacks the writers who attack them. Most real writers, kind to their own trade, work it the reverse way; they know writing is hard and show more respect to people who take chances. We don't find these kinds of people at the Times anymore; we find Patt Morrison and Tim Rutten and Jim Newton and Sue Horton.
Also, Rainey forgot to mention in citing Celeste Fremon's "takedown" of Jill Stewart that Fremon was only too eager to bring Allan Mittelstadt, Stewart's predecessor at the Weekly and later of rival (and recently deceased) Citybeat, into her blog. There were axes to grind there too, and they should be a little more visible than what Rainey permits--especially as he's a media critic.
It was funny also to read in Rainey's column that the paper has brought in some "laughable" reporters, according to our favorite axe-grinding, petty and vindictive old chola, Marc Cooper, who has previously begged for someone at the paper to tee off on Stewart, and who remains someone far more politically mercurial than the scribes at the Weekly have been in Stewart's tenure. No, dismissing the new faces are laughable does not really hold water; in fact, several of us are astonished to see one of France's most distinguished music writers, Phillipe Garnier, contributing regular pieces of late. Not to mention Daniel Heimpel, who was recently named "Political Journalist of the Year" by the LA Press Club for his independent work at the Weekly. Pelisek, etc.; being in the company of the Weekly is being in some of the best company in town.
Further, Rainey cites the paper's former pro-union slant as something positive (I thought subjective positions were a bad thing?...oh, well). What he forgot to mention here was that the Mayor himself used to be fairly pro-Union too, but now he is only pro-Union-of-color, such as the SEIU, while consistently hanging several other unions, such as the UTLA and the Screen Writers, out to dry.
Now that the Times has lined itself up as a pro-Villaraigosa mouthpiece even on A2, and the wagons are obliged to circle as the seats in them become fewer, I suspect we'll see more of this kind of Kevin Roderick-styled wannabe-old-boy-network media crit by the-embittered-corpulent-white-male-fiftysomethings-with-axes-to-grind against more vibrant, far fresher, far livelier faces. But the fact remains, as with the Pellicano stories, the Doug Dowie stories, and other cheaply won, zero-investigative chatter, in which scribes only talk in an echo chamber to other scribes to gain their dry-ice-cold scoops, that pieces such as Rainey's are precisely the kind of pieces that are bringing the newspaper down--because nobody outside of the local print media cares one iota about them.
UPDATE: Had forgotten that I was quoted in a previous Weekly piece about Rainey in 2007. As Jill says, I agree: the Weekly's piece on Rainey was fair; the piece Rainey did on Jill---hah hah hah.
UPDATE II: Also quoted in Jill's response letter; a pleasure.