This column is loosely named after one of the many nicknames
I've carried through life, and should not to be confused with
a former FOX-TV sci-fi that came into this world four decades
after I did. It is called "The X Files", not because
my perspectives or opinions may seem strange or mysterious
to some, but because we'll look at many issues that will cause
a few people in the news business to wish interplanetary aliens
would come and take me away.
The rules of the news reporting game and some of the ethics
espoused, have changed over time, and one might opine, that
is hasn't necessarily been for the better. We'll look at that
and a few other topics rarely discussed openly among members
of the media because News Matters!
"Opinions," someone once said, "are like a.
(a certain part of the anatomy). Everybody has one."
This column provides that opportunity to look at news from
my opinion and perspective as a very aggressive, seasoned,
successful writer/editor/reporter/commentator. I've spent
40 years as a print and television journalist, radio talk
show host, businessman, and civic leader, all of it here in
Los Angeles. At times, I may offer a quality control check
on our beloved news business. Other times, I will examine
politics and the news, why the news business chooses to cover
what it does, why we cover some folks differently than others,
why we keep our hands off some untouchables and mercilessly
pounce on others, etc.
This column will NEVER try to pick on people by name, though
I have perfected that art in REAL life. Using names is SO
inside the Beltway, or inside baseball, as others say!! We
want all the readers, no matter where in the world their perch
is located, to understand that the news game in L.A. is like
no other. The second largest city in the U.S. has its own
unique personality, whether it's normal, bi-polar, or bi-something
else. The real question is simple: "Are we doing a good
job in covering this megalopolis? Are we truly doing all we
can as professional story tellers of life in El Lay to communicate
to our readers/listeners/viewers what they need and want to
Somehow, here in Los Angeles, we have become the land of
"Unless it bleeds, it rarely or never leads." We
are the most diverse region in the free world and each of
our valleys, for example, (San Fernando or San Gabriel) has
a million-plus in population. The "SG" has 34 separate
and very independent cities. Yet, today, we have seen, and
generally accepted, police pursuits as having more value than
other stories in the line-up. We see news directors wipe out
dozens of legitimate, important stories, to make room for
some zigzagging low-life seeking his 15 minutes of fame over
a two-hour chase.
The Harbor, East, West or South L.A. area, the high and low
deserts , the OTHER counties - the O.C., the Inland Empire,
Ventura, et al - all deserve more attention from the media
than they receive. Often, their demographics represent another
world that exists, at times, in another language and culture.
Are we really in tune with the depth of those cultures?
These are some of the topics we will visit in our journey
through the X Files in the weeks and months to come. We'll
also explore the world of politics as the November elections
approach. It's one of the dirtiest campaign we've seen in
years and we will wonder aloud, for example, why the media
gave so much coverage to Vice President Dick Cheney using
the "F" word against Senator Patrick Leahy, yet
practically ignored John Kerry's use of the "F"
word in attacking President Bush in an interview in Rolling
The "F" word caper then hit the main stage at the
Democratic National Convention when
12-year-old redhead Ilana Wexler drew national attention for
saying, "Our vice president, he said a really bad word.
If I said that word ... I would get a time out. I think he
(Cheney) should be given a time out." Where was the media's
"balance" on that coverage and why didn't someone
ask Ilana about Kerry getting a "time out" or ask
the Kerry folks about the double standard? The Republican
National Convention is on tap this week. Let's see what, if
anything, gets covered or overlooked there.
I have spent the majority of my working years in the media,
in politics and in business. I started in this business at
a much younger age than most, as a sports writer for the South
Bay Daily Breeze and the San Pedro News-Pilot when I was 14
years old, in the mid-1960's. This helps explain why I am
a stickler for the old style of news writing and reporting.
It was NEVER about entertainment in those earlier days. It
was always about being first, and accurate, with the story
and beating your competitors to the punch. I was named Sports
Editor right out of high school at age 18 and it was all about
being first, and accurate, about winning!
The times were also different when I hit All News KFWB at
age 21 in the early 1970's. Those were the days of the Patty
Hearst kidnap, the war-like SLA shootout with the LAPD in
South L.A., and all-out war in the streets with bombings and
the like involving local Turkish and Greek Cypriots around
the UCLA area in West Los Angeles. How many of you can remember
a really pudgy Zev Yaroslavsky in the 1970's riding around
in his pink Rambler as a leading activist for Soviet Jewry?
Those lacking institutional memories are probably scratching
their heads right now.
By the early 90's, it was time for me to do commentaries
opposite Bill Press at KCOP-Channel 13 in L.A., and begin
a five-year stint as a talk show host at KABC Talkradio. It
was a real kick and fortuitous to start as a part timer and
immediately become the primary fill-in host for the legendary
Michael Jackson, Dennis Prager, and Gloria Allred, while working
alongside veterans like Steve Edwards Kern Minyard, and Larry
Elder. When ABC acquired KMPC from Gene Autry and named it
710-Talk, KMPC, the full time gig put me with newcomer Tavis
Smiley and veterans Peter Tilden, Tom Leykis, and Michael
Reagan. These were the heydays of the O.J. Trial and the hated-filled,
anti-illegal alien Proposition 187.
I have a lot to share and thanks to Hal Eisner for the chance
to do it. A former girlfriend taught me that "All is
change. Only change is changeless." In this column, we'll
examine change in our news business and among other things,
do some gut checks to determine if we have lost the cornerstone
of our journalistic underpinnings: institutional memory and
the aggressive pursuit of hard-hitting news that provides
a service to our viewers, listeners, or the community as a
Please stay tuned.