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Covering taxes, covering rallies

Carl E. Ossipoff of Newport Beach wrote, "8,000 people show up to a 'Tax Revolt' rally in Fullerton and the L.A. Times fails to cover it because it's not newsworthy? Maybe if you covered the things important to the folks in the Southland, you'd sell more papers."

So said a number of others who wrote over the weekend asking why there was no story on a rally promoted by KFI-AM talk-show hosts to protest recent proposed tax increases. The rally drew (depending on who's counting) 3,000 to 15,000 people.

The Times noted the event with a short post on the L.A. Now blog on March 8. The rally was covered by the Orange County Register and San Gabriel Valley Tribune (which noted: "The radio station reported as many as 15,000 people attended, but a Fullerton police sergeant estimated 3,000 to 8,000 people were there").

Other events with similar numbers don't always get stories; an earlier post on this journal gave the thinking on that last year.

California Editor David Lauter wrote back to scores who asked about the event. The gist of his response: No, The Times didn't cover the rally. But yes, The Times has covered the issues that led to anger behind the rally.

Here's the e-mail Lauter sent out late Monday to many dozens who wrote:

Thanks to each of you for writing. I appreciate hearing from all of you -- even the ones who called me a moron.

We all agree that the tax issue is extremely important. That's why, in the last few weeks alone, the Times has run more than 30 stories about the tax and budget proposals being pushed by the Legislature and the governor. That's also why we ran a tax chart so you could see how much the new taxes would cost you.

Here's just a few of the other stories that we've been first to report:

-- We were the first to tell you about the governor's decision to go back on his "no new taxes" pledge
-- We broke the details on the budget proposals being negotiated behind closed doors in Sacramento
-- The Times was the first to disclose that the Legislature and governor were planning to increase the Vehicle License Fee

-- We were the first to report that Proposition 1A included a provision that would make tax increases permanent.

On top of that, the other day, we broke the story of top Schwarzenegger administration officials who were getting their commuting expenses reimbursed by the taxpayers. Not to mention the top official who had to resign last week after one of our reporters figured out that she had taken money for speeches to drug companies that her agency was supposed to be regulating.

That's the sort of reporting that our readers expect and get -- daily -- from the Times. Those of you who don't read us missed those stories -- or perhaps you got them a day late when someone else picked them up and repeated them. I'm glad to say, though, that the number of people who do read them continues to grow. Our web traffic has more than doubled in the last year (latimes.com was the fastest growing major website in the country), and our overall readership between print and the web is higher than it has ever been. Those kinds of exclusive stories are a chief reason why, and that's what I want to keep our reporters focused on: digging up new facts that others can't get.

Between now and the May 19 election, we plan extensive coverage of both sides of the campaign over the ballot initiatives. We'll explain the issues, tell readers what both sides are saying, figure out where the money is coming from to pay for the campaigns on both sides and show people what's at stake. What we're not likely to do is cover a lot of individual rallies -- from either side. That's not a political thing. We don't cover a lot of government-worker rallies in favor of tax hikes, either. That doesn't mean we're not interested in the issue or that we have any disrespect for the people who attend the rallies (or the people who organize them).

Thanks for reading,

David Lauter
California Editor
Los Angeles Times

 
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Comments (8)

We are constantly offended when lame LAT writers continually say John and Ken and KFI Radio get ratings off us - like we are a band of jug playing, donkey riding, mountain men and women from the Ozarks who cant think for ourselves - YES, John and Ken are getting ratings off me, duh duh duh. who cares? Good for them - let us call it SUPPLY AND DEMAND.

I certainly am glad they are getting something out of helping every day people to decode the wording of complex mumbo-jumbo political issues and ripping the clandestine cover off the secret little crap that goes on in government regarding important propositions,bills and legislators regular people vote for, propositions, bills and legislators that, unless you are a poly sci student with 2 degrees, one has no idea what he/she are voting for.

LAT is supposed to be reporting news, would you mind taking as much time explaining the real honest verbiage (not your opinions) of the issues, as you do dumping a big trout on everybody's head and jamming your incoherent ramblings down our throat (or eyes), you too, might be able to hang with the times. Years of this is finally paying off in the form of massive papers are finding themselves in the peculiar position of leaving Earth permanently.

If the idea was to keep us stupid the people are waking up, and they are talking with their wallets, just report the real news, stop calling those who might read your garbage names. DON'T TREAT YOUR READERS (or, declining readership, as it were) AS IF THEY ARE DUMB SHEEP as your columnists have done - time and time again. The ball has been put back in your court - it's pathetic that you need to huddle and discuss in order to know what the hell to do with it.

The tax rally may have been spurned by two radio drive-home DJs, but I assure you, this was NOT a Radio Stunt.

Look at the LAT recent coverage of prop 8 - why shouldn't readers consider that garbage as "stunts"?

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-prop8-reax6-2009mar06,0,1962642.story

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gay-marriage5-2009mar05,0,1678724.story

We the reader are not so sure you would have considered the tax rally to be just a "radio stunt" for ratings if John and Ken were oppressed, illegal alien teachers who worked for unions.

Maybe the LA Times could send a reporter and photographer to these rallies (there will be more) to better determine how many protesters are actually in attendance. Just a thought.

What you're missing is these anti-tax "tea party" rallies are breaking out across the country. Here you have a major one just down the road from your headquarters, and you don't bother to even send an intern.

Sure the KFI event was more state budget specific, but it's part of a larger anti-tax phenomenon. Learn from your mistakes instead of explaining them away.

Well i'm glad that's cleared up. I hear the president is signing the omnibus bill today. Fortunately the Times has already covered the underlying issues in the bill- government, spending, voting, the American Revolution, etc. So never mind.

This is exactly why I stopped reading The Times years ago. Twenty people appear for an anti-war rally and it makes the front page(yes, this is hyperbole) but several thousand make it to a tax protest and The Times can't be bothered. And spare me the excuse that you've covered the underlying issues. Lame.

The LA Times is missing a rapidly growing phenomenon. American citizens are sending tea bag letters to their federal leaders and having anti-tax Tea Parties around the country. This is a reminder to the elected officials that America is of, by and for the people not of, by and for the politicians.

And, I would remind those who know a little history, that the Boston Tea Party in 1773 preceded the American Revolution.

The thing about these Tea Party rallies is that the protesters are not the normal pot-banging crowd - they are mostly staid, reserved middle classers who are really pissed off. There's not a whole lot of them - yet - but they represent something new and different, which should be newsworthy. Usually conservative-type folks (or just small business owners and others worried about being taxed out of business) keep their heads down and their noses clean - maybe they will write a letter to the editor or just curse at the TV. Maybe this is all a flash in the pan, but it might be the start of something bigger - but will they LAT cover it - will they even EXIST to cover it in a few years?

Your editor's excuses are patently lame. The fact you've reported umpteen Sacramento committee hearings and Governor's statements is completely beside the point. The real story is that we no longer believe the Governor, the legislature, or the LA Times to tell us the truth. The real story is that we are going to take to the streets to demonstrate that we're not going to take it any more.

If the LA Times wants to hunker down in its command bunker and keep the shades down, fine. Sooner or later, the demonstrations are going to get big enough, loud enough, and close enough to your offices, you guys can lean out the window to report on them.


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