Miguel Bustillo, a first-rate reporter and writer who came up through the ranks of the LA Times, is leaving to take a job with the Wall Street Journal. American journalism is full of LA Times ex-pats: another is Robert Lee Hotz, was the top writer at the paper on global warming issues before he left for the WSJ. The LA Times hasn’t found a real replacement yet, as far as I can tell. The issue is covered haphazardly.
But what’s most interesting — and saddening — about this news is that Bustillo, like so many readers who happen not to live in Santa Monica or downtown L.A., can’t understand why Southern California’s best newspaper choose to give up its dominance in places like the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County. The paper was doing a superb job of covering Ventura County, both its issues, its people, and even its artists. Now we’re lucky if its issues get an occasional mention in the California section. When even the insiders can’t figure this out, you know something is terribly wrong (from Bustillo’s parting letter to his friends at the paper, via LA Observed)
I was fortunate enough to work on a lot of memorable stories. But the
one that will always resonate in my mind was the 1994 Northridge
Earthquake. I was 22 at the time, just starting out. The Valley edition
was treated like a minor league affiliate by some of the more pompous
denizens of Times Mirror Square. But on that day, the Valley newsroom
rose to that challenge like nothing I’ve seen before or since. It was
magic, and as I played my small intern’s part in the reporting that
day, I knew I had made a good career choice. That Pulitzer was richly
deserved. Some of the stringers who contributed to that coverage are
among this paper’s best reporters today.
I will never understand why the LA Times pulled back from Ventura and
the Valley. That was the biggest strategic mistake this paper ever
made. I bet anyone who worked in those places, covering local news like
I did, would agree.