Can you find the LaBonge in this picture?
The LA Weekly weighed in at 100 pp yesterday; last year's mid-February issue was 96. That's a step in the right direction, even if there is still no editorial side to the Arts section beyond an ad-hopeful photo callout for a show at LA Louver, already one of LA's best known galleries.
But the publication continues to make odd gestures on the news side, and sometimes they don't happen in print.
Last night, LA Weekly news editor Jill Stewart, moderating a CD 4 candidate forum in Silver Lake, was hissed and jeered by the shocked Silver Lake audience of about 100 when she singled out Councilman Tom LaBonge for attack.
Breaking with the format of the forum, Stewart as moderator pointedly asked LaBonge about charges that he was intellectually unequipped for the role of City Councilman. This was especially ironic at the time the question came because LaBonge had just artfully fended off an accusation of candidate Tomas O'Grady's, in a way that suggested he was better equipped than many, even a master of debate. "You don't need to address me, address the audience," LeBonge said after O'Grady turned forcefully to the Councilman, pointed at him, and told him that on matters regarding Griffith Park, LaBonge could not be trusted. Which all made for good theater, until Stewart's pointed question disrupted the momentum of the forum.
Responding to the crowd's vocal displeasure with Stewart's profoundly disrespectful question, Stewart said, "We ask tougher questions of the incumbents," which produced an even more despondent reaction from the crowd. Her line only succeeded in making LaBonge look like a victim. There were no other questions asked specifically of the other candidates.
None of this would be very noteworthy were not Stewart already so completely in the Ron Kaye anti-incumbent camp, making a role as any kind of political moderator involving a Council race a dubious one. This week's issue, for instance, features a sympathetic cover story on Box that appeared the very same day of her moderator duties of a race involving Box. It is sort of the bookend to a long shelf of attack journalism on LA incumbents the Weekly opened with the story of two years ago, LA on $300,000 a year.
That story served its purpose, but last night's antics, as well as the Weekly's ceaseless and occasionally mindless assaults on incumbency in general, do not. We think it would be better journalism if Stewart decided whether or not she wants to be news editor or political operative--to be both simultaneously is muckraking of the most unseemly stripe, and does little to advance the Weekly's reputation, even while augmenting its distance from meaningful City Hall coverage.
EARLIER: I know. 96th St., Drex & Sex, &c., 96th Street, 96th Street, 92nd Street.