Am I Going To Have to Start Reading the New York Times to Find Out What’s Going On With Blacks in Los Angeles?

It just keeps getting worse for Black people in California. Not only have we dwindled down to a measly 6 percent of the state’s population, but now the few Black writers that we could depend on at the Los Angeles Times to champion our stories from our perspective are no more, including my dear friend veteran journalist John Mitchell, the last Black reporter in the Metro section.

Besides John, Lynell George, another friend and damn good journalist, and sportswriter Lonnie White are all casualties of a failing newspaper industry. Before that, there was Jocelyn Stewart from Obituaries, who left in August, and Gayle Pollard Terry in Metro, who left last year along with her husband and a couple of other Black writers in the initial layoff aka forced retirement.

I haven’t heard anything regarding the fate of Lisa Richardson, Sandy Banks, both Black writers at the Times in the Opinion Editorial section.

This isn’t good. I mean not just from an employee’s perspective, but from a reader’s perspective either.

Those of us in L.A. that read the Times’ know that it’s not often that positive stories regarding Blacks find their way into the paper. Usually when you see a Black person on the cover of the paper, be it the A section, Metro or otherwise, we’re either a sports athlete, entertainer, or criminal.

Many times the positive stories in our community go unwritten in lieu of stories about gang violence, political misdoings, and other criminal misconduct. A perfect example of this would be the Los Angeles Taste of Soul Festival, which drew over 100,000 thousand people to Crenshaw Boulevard. Even though it’s the largest street festival in Los Angeles’ history, the Times’ neglected to cover it. However, in August, the Times’ extensively covered Silverlake’s Sunset Junction, which according to the Times’ only attracted “tens of thousands” into a five-block stretch of Sunset Boulevard that “attempted to connect longtime Latino residents and their newer gay and lesbian neighbors.” Go figure?

Another example is the Times’ devotion to the Cannes (France), Toronto (Canada), Palm Springs International, and Sundance (Utah) film festival’s. And when I say extensive, I mean dedicating teams of reporters to go off and cover these festivals—none of which are in Los Angeles—sometimes to the point of having their own special sections in the paper. However, the film festivals that take place right in their backyard—in particular the Black film festivals—are either ignored all together, or have to fight for the smallest mention in the paper. I know this because it’s a fight I have almost every year and if it wasn’t for the Black reporters at the Times’ who oftentimes are the one’s pushing their colleagues to cover these events, they might not ever appear on the pages of the Times’.

At some point you have to question the motive of a paper who during the Olympics, in one edition successfully mentions and/or features gold medalist Michael Phelps in the A, Metro, Sports, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Health, and Olympics sections of the paper but neglects to feature Venus and Serena Williams on the cover of either section after winning the tennis doubles gold medal—and they’re from Los Angeles (Compton)!

The Times’ new blogs online were a great addition. And while the Times’ has a blog on almost every facet of Los Angeles life, including traffic, pets and animals, history, celebrity sightings, food, and sports—there isn’t one blog dedicated to the culture and happenings of Black L.A.

And I am not even going to get on the Op-Ed pages—but if I read one more article written by someone who is not Black about the history of Blacks in Los Angeles and California…

I sometimes wish that the Times’ showed the same fervor and interest in covering the positive things taking place in Los Angeles’ Black community as it did when reporting on the not-so-positive—i.e. King Hospital, Tyrone Freeman, etc. Now wouldn’t that be something.

I mean, I know we make up 6 percent of the State’s population but does that mean that we make up the same percentage in content in the paper? Come to think about it, that’s not even accurate. 6 percent would be an increase compared to our current coverage.

When was the last time the Times’ ever held a town hall meeting with their constituency’s to get feedback on how they’re doing? Exactly.

I’m not hating on Times,’ per se. Afterall, I still actually read the physical paper everyday. But I have become increasingly frustrated with the paper’s editorial choices as it relates to Blacks. Many of the reporters let go today and in the recent past, were people that I turned to for answers and advice on how to push for a change and more inclusion at the Times.’ Now they’re gone and there are but a few of us left there on the inside—and who knows for how long.

I guess it’s that much more important to read both your daily newspaper and the Black newspaper—where you can rest assured that if the Williams’ sisters win a gold medal, they will be on the front page of the Sports’ section. In L.A. county we are lucky to have more than one paper that focuses on the Black community—my suggestion…find one, find them all, and subscribe to them today! After that, you might want to start familiarizing yourself with the New York Times and the Washington Post…I’m just saying.

The Court of Public Opinion

  • Amen @ Jasmyne. Another bloodbath today just sharpens the pain of the ongoing problems at LAT.

    Bright side… We still have Greg Braxton who does amazing work there as a culture/entertainment writer. The day he goes is the day I stop reading for good.

  • Jboogie

    Here here Ava, Greg is a great journalist and you’re right on, except I am going to add Lisa Richardson to the equation as well, when they are both gone—so am I.

  • asantewa

    Again, just another example of how little the lives and opinions of Black folks are respected. Remember, last to be hired, first to be fired.

    I agree, we should all subscribe and religiously read the local Black press. (We should have been doing this anyway) However, the problem with this is that our non-Black neighbors are not likely to do the same, which results in the strengthening of the social apartheid in the US. Is it no wonder why after more than 2 years of campaigning white folks can still say they don’t know who Obama is? Can Black folks say that we don’t know who Sarah Palain is? After just two months we all have a good idea. We see her everyday in the newspaper, magazines, on our televisions and in the movies.

    Unfortunately, the recent choices included in the “layoffs” of the L.A. Times just reinforces a problem that goes to the core of American race relations. That’s too bad, given what at least appears to be a new light on the horizon.

  • Hi, Jasmyne. I share your views on the Times (of which I subscribe to) about Blacks in Los Angeles.
    I work at the Daily News as an editorial assistant and at times we run one of your columns. I like what you write. By the way, I was a journalism major in college. I enjoy the challenges we face as journalists in this time, and anyway, I could go on, but I wanted to introduce myself to you, and I hope you flourish in this profession.
    One of my former colleagues told me to stay in it, because there aren’t too many of us in this field these days. Our paper hardly covers Af-Ams, too. I read a story about how the Times had to venture to Atlanta to talk to Blacks. Ach du himmel! I could not believe it.
    That sums up the state of coverage by newspapers. Next count on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to go to Birmingham to interview Blacks. (LOL)
    Anyway, I must get back to work, so keep up the good work.

  • Jasmyne you’re not looking forward to being the only one left.

    I feel sort of like the Highlander, but I don’t plan on harming you for you superpowers, so I can be the only black girl left in LA…lol….

    You forgot Erin Aubrey.

    Yeah I was looking at this event about archiving LA, I think it was at USC and they had pretty much everyone represented but black people in regards to the exhibitors. They did have Jervey reading, but that’s about it. I was kind of shocked….and then I went to the LA Library the map thing again, nothing on black LA it’s sort of creepy. It’s like we never existed. We will be ghost.


  • Evan

    You’re dead on Jasmyne. I had the chance to meet John Mitchell while covering Laura Richardson’s celebration when she won the Congressional Primary last year. He was a pillar when it came to covering politics and other issues in the community and it’s a shame that he is gone when so many political races in his bureau deserve to be covered.

    It’s disheartening for a young Black reporter like myself to sit here at the Sentinel and watch the color (and overall substance) being drained from the LA Times. As if the summer buyouts weren’t tough enough, this is another bit of sad news. When it comes to sports, I am probably the only Black face I see with a notepad at high school games or other events (where the majority of players are Black). And then for news, I was happy Taste of Soul got love on Fox 11 but why not the Times? Three straight years and no love? It’s just embarrassing how the Times doesn’t cover an event of this magnitude but shows love to the Valley.

    It’s a sad day for journalism, the city of L.A., and most importantly the Black community. The onus is even more on us at the Sentinel (and the Wave and L.A. Watts Times) to do our best telling our stories because right now, the City has lost some more of our storytellers.