The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Shocker: Showbiz blogger takes a shot at L.A. Times!

February 12, 2009 | 12:19 pm

I hate to air dirty media laundry in this blog, but since the media is part of my beat, I feel obligated to come to the defense of my newspaper, which has been unfairly lambasted by the Wrap for dropping the ball on covering the Motion Picture & Television Fund funding fiasco--even though nothing could be further from the truth. The Wrap, a brand-spanking new showbiz website, has done a great job of reporting on the funding imbroglio--and I was the first to applaud their work. But as it all too often the case these days, it wasn't enough for the Wrap to do good reporting; they've also felt somehow obligated to bash Old Media--meaning The Times--for being asleep at the switch.

Thewrap_logoAs Sharon Waxman put it in a post on the Wrap today, she was "shocked and saddened" to discover that The Times didn't bother to participate in an audio news conference held by fund principals as they tried to do some damage control in response to a series of embarrassing stories about the way they are handling the closure of the fund's hospital and long-term care facility. As Waxman put it: "If traditional journalists, the folks who still draw a paycheck and have a proper newsroom, are not going to show up to hold major institutions accountable for their treatment of those who cannot control their surroundings--what's the point of the exercise?" Waxman singled out my paper, saying "If the Los Angeles Times was there, its reporters were silent as a tomb."

The not-so inside joke is that, up until last year, Waxman was a traditional journalist herself, a veteran reporter--and a good one--at the New York Times and the Washington Post. But now that she's a blogger, she apparently has forgotten how to use a telephone. If she had been doing this story for the N.Y. Times, one of her editors might have gently suggested that she not assume that the LAT wasn't on the audio conference; perhaps she could actually make a call to find out for sure. If she had, she would've discovered that our crack reporter Richard Verrier was on the call the whole time. He didn't pose any questions to fund big-shots Jeffrey Katzenberg and Frank Mancuso because--ahem--he'd already interviewed them one-on-one a day earlier. It was all part of his reporting for a hard-hitting story on the fund's economic collapse that ran on the front page of our Business section Wednesday, which supplied embarrassing details about the fund's chief executive's 41% pay raise and other troubling allocation of fund resources.

I guess Sharon somehow missed that story, which was simply the latest example of The Times' broad coverage of the fiasco. Sharon and I are in total agreement when it comes to the inept way the fund has handled the current crisis, evicting sick, elderly people because of a $20-million shortfall that barely equals the marketing budget for the latest forgettable Hollywood comedy. But if she wants to poke Old Media in the eye, she should at least do a minimal amount of reporting before she jumps to erroneous conclusions. We've got plenty of failings here at The Times, but our coverage of the fund fiasco isn't one of them.