Sat, Jun

We Are In Limbo


MY THOUGHTS - Have you noticed that all the Southern California channels always start the 11:00 News with police chases, accidents, or something awful? 

It can’t be the only thing they want to feature, BUT perhaps they think bad news, or a crisis will draw your attention.  60 Minutes had an interesting segment last Sunday on the disappearing of local newspapers. 

Apparently, a large hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, based in New York is buying up newspaper chains under the premise they will be more efficient and add more value to the communities they service.  In reality. they fire 85% of the staff, sell the equipment and real estate and go on to the next purchase. 

Launched in 2007, Alden owns about 200 publications through an operating company known as MediaNews Group. Its larger newspapers include the Denver Post, San Jose (California) Mercury News and the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press.  In May it purchased Tribune Publishing. The merger’s approval depended on Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owned 23.7% of Tribune Publishing’s 36.9 million outstanding shares.  He abstained from voting for the merger, which counts as an affirmative yes.    So, the famous Chicago Tribune fell to this second largest U.S. Publishing Company, which would have been described as a robber baron in earlier days. 

Local newspapers used to be the lifeblood for communities.  Where else could you find the score of the local High School, the newest restaurant and yes, the latest obituary.  It also was a great watchdog over local politicians.  I have fond memories of the Pico Post, whose publisher Edna Toole, gave me my first by-line at age 13.  Seeing my words in print solidified my ambition to become a newspaper reporter.  Until recently a byline on an article was the ultimate recognition for a reporter.  Now every article has multiple bylines. 

To add to this… a commercial for CityWatchLA, which you are currently reading.  It was started by Ken Draper, publisher, as a newsletter for the Neighborhood Councils. Over the last two decades it has morphed into a most important communication, keeping you apprised of local issues as well as important national events. 

Readers receive opinions from many diverse columnists, and it has developed into an important watchdog for local agencies and politicians.  Many of whom have inside knowledge.  It is also read by our politicians and institutions who, I think, sometimes would prefer a lower profile.  I once had one of our well- known politicians tell me, he didn’t know if his inclusion in my articles was publicity or notoriety. 

I am a news junkie and yes -I still get a print edition of the Los Angeles Times each morning.  It is a necessary ingredient for my breakfast…just like coffee.  I like the feel of newsprint and I admit I even get some print magazines and newsletters. 

I, like many of you, have been glued to Cable news watching the January 6th Commission present its findings.  My initial reaction: their accomplishment in gathering so much information is phenomenal.  I do want to comment on Lyn Cheney.  Philosophically we are at opposite ends of the political spectrum but her opening remarks laying out the seven- point program was definitely a “Profile in Courage”.  She will probably lose her seat in Wyoming but…she is destined for greater things.   In this entire debacle, she is a true heroine. 

Talk about debacles…our recent California election was definitely NOT a profile in courage.  My mailbox, email account and robo calls were overflowing.  I don’t know how anyone can say they didn’t know an election was happening.  Every registered voter supposedly received a ballot in the mail.  One didn’t even need a stamp to return the ballot!  I admit seven pages was a bit much to wade through.  This new procedure where the top two candidates, regardless of party, go to the November finals, doesn’t seem to have been a great success.  

Two things I would like to see changed but, am not holding out much hope to see it in my lifetime:  Campaign Financing and Judges being appointed by a non-partisan knowledgeable Commission… NOT elected. 

Let’s take the easier one first.  I would say that 90% of the electorate have no idea which judge to vote for.  Unless you have had face to face experience with certain judges or you have friends or family who are in law AND you trust their judgement, it’s a guessing game! Most   people vote for judges because they like the name, the gender, the political party or have read the LA Times analysis.  Judges should NOT be elected because of their abilities to raise funds.  This is not what we want in our judges.  Frankly, we are not qualified to make a judgement; however, there are people in our communities who are qualified to make a judgement based on knowledge! 

Campaign financing is a giant boondoggle.  Ever since the Supreme Court settled in the favor of Citizens United, we have lessened our chances of having honest politicians who care about the welfare of their constituents.  Some people, in fact most people, hate asking for money! One’s ability to raise and spend enormous sums of money to win an election, does nothing to insure we get the best candidate.   I received so much political stuff from Rick Caruso and having him in my TV on a constant basis felt like he had moved in, and I wasn’t looking for a roommate! 

This is not a criticism of his qualifications, but I would swear that some people voted for him because it was the only name they could remember.  Money should not be the primary prerequisite for running for political office AND the ability to raise large sums means one has compromised, made promises and is obligated to consider what your large donors want.  I realize that many, many people donate $20.00 to a favorite candidate and that money adds up.  I get hit by the Democratic Party at least four times a day to give what we consider small change $ 15 here for this one…$20 for this one.  It is annoying, but I suppose it is successful because they keep doing it. 

What if, as an example, each State contributed x amount of dollars to each State candidate that was able to get the requisite number of signatures to be on the ballot.  Each City could do the same and the Federal government had a similar policy.  There is a myriad of ways for the institutions to raise money.  Money from Corporations, Associations, Organizations would be strictly limited so that “PAC” money would be eliminated, and the voters would know who was supporting whom.  

I’m sure that there are great people who would make excellent office holders who won’t even attempt to run because of the financial quagmire. 

It would be really informative, if candidates gave an outline of how they intended to solve the problems.  As Steve Lopez said in his LA Times column today, saying you are going to solve the homeless problem without talking about the method is blah blah blah.  

I assume we will be inundated again with literature and TV ads.  Meanwhile the January 6th Commission continues with its third public hearing, which is certainly more exciting and at the same really depressing.    

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist and a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])