Patterico - Contributor
is a prosecutor in Los Angeles County. He grew up in
Fort Worth, Texas, majored in music and English at Cornell
University, and attended the University of Texas Law
School in Austin, Texas. Before accepting a job as a
Deputy District Attorney, he was law clerk to the Honorable
William D. Keller, U.S. District Judge for the Central
District of California, and an associate in the Los Angeles
office of Shearman and Sterling.
addition to prosecuting criminals, Patterico maintains
a blog called Patterico's
Pontifications. Topics include media bias, legal
issues, and political discussion from a libertarian/conservative
perspective. A frequent target of criticism is the Los
Angeles Dog Trainer (aka the Los Angeles Times). [go to Patterico
Dog Trainer - Year in Review
2003 was a year of denial for California's newspaper
It is time
for my blog's first annual review of the performance of the Los
Angeles Dog Trainer (aka Los Angeles
Before I get to the
review itself, I should explain the term "Dog
Trainer" to people who are unfamiliar with the term. I stole
it from comedian Harry Shearer (a fact that I acknowledge every
time I use the term, with a link to this
post). To my way of
thinking, Shearer's phrase captures the essence of the paper
better than the other possible names for the paper (like the "Los
Angeles Bird Cage Liner" or the "L.A. Fish Wrapper").
So how did our local Dog
Trainer do this year? Well, that depends
on your taste. If you like blatant liberal bias, manufactured
quotes, and inaccuracies that consistently favor the left, then
you will find that Dog Trainer editors did a stellar job. For
the rest of you, I think you'll find that the paper's performance
left quite a bit to be desired.
Fasten your seatbelts -- here we go!
When you think of the Los
Angeles Dog Trainer in 2003, you think
of the paper's skewed coverage of state politics -- particularly
the recall election. The biased coverage of politics in Sacramento,
together with the pro-Davis recall coverage, cost the paper thousands
of subscribers. This seems like a good place to start.
coverage of California politics did not begin well. In early
February, when I began my blog, Gray Davis had recently
been re-elected Governor. I guess the editors felt it was safe
to report (finally)
that Davis had fudged budget numbers just before the election.
This was a detail that had escaped the attention
of the crack Dog Trainer staff until after the election,
when it was too late to do anything about Davis -- or
so it seemed.
kept up the drumbeat for the Democrats during the budget negotiations.
When the Legislature was trying to figure
out what to do about a $38 billion budget shortfall, the federal
government dropped $2.4 billion into the Legislature's lap. Democrats
immediately spent all the money -- not on fixing the hole in
the budget, but on social programs. This tidbit, which deserved
to be the lede of any responsible story on the budget crisis,
buried deep in a story that portrayed the crisis as largely manufactured
by Republicans. (It later materialized
that Democrats were
the ones trying to manufacture a budget crisis -- a fact the Dog
Trainer downplayed. More on that later.)
This was the background that led to the paper's horrible, horrible
recall election coverage.
THE RECALL ELECTION
Trainer's opposition to the recall was no secret. The
editors of the paper let
their hatred of the recall distort all of their coverage -- even
their poll numbers. The Dog Trainer's polling on the recall was a running joke among the politically
savvy in California. The only poll numbers in the state that
looked as optimistic for Davis were the numbers put out by Davis
himself. People were asking whether the paper had any shame,
and how badly
the paper would have to be embarrassed before someone got fired.
The paper's columnists
all opposed the recall, and the candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger
-- every last one of them. A Dog Trainer writer named Roy Rivenburg wrote
me to criticize the one-sided
nature of the paper's columnists, saying: "I wish my paper
had a pro-recall columnist or two to balance out the
predictable Lopez/King/Morrison/Skelton blather." Good for him.
was dead on the money, too. For example, in a typical boneheaded
anti-recall, anti-Arnold column, $300,000
a year columnist Steve Lopez mocked voters for getting excited
about saving an
average of $140 on their car taxes. Lopez's column, showing
his insensitivity to the value of a dollar to average folks,
a shameful moment. (See below for a comment on this from Mr.
Given the paper's
hostility to the recall and to Arnold, nobody was surprised
when the paper ran the infamous Arnold hit piece.
I actually thought the
content of the piece was pretty good.
However, several other factors made the publication of the story
an utter disgrace. The timing of the piece was so blatantly calculated
to inflict maximum damage to Schwarzenegger that Mickey
Kaus predicted the timing of the piece to the day. There was never
any valid explanation why
the paper didn't run similarly sourced stories about Gray Davis's
alleged physical abuse of government
employees. I found it particularly outrageous that the paper,
knowing the allegations about Davis's wild temper, described
Davis to readers as a man who possessed a "calm demeanor."
In a surprising (and desperate) move, editor John Carroll ended
up going public on the pages of the Dog Trainer to defend the
Arnold hit piece. I was not
convinced, and said so repeatedly.
Equally unimpressed was Jill
the most bizarre thing Carroll said in his paper's defense was to compare others'
coverage of the incident to "journalistic
pornography." This was richly ironic, coming as it did from
a guy who had given the green light to a story containing the
following quote from Arnold: "Have you ever had a man slide
his tongue in your [anus]?"
Right around this
Weintraub reported that he owns a "large white political button with black writing" that
reads: "I don't believe the Los Angeles Times." Meanwhile,
people were canceling their Dog Trainer subscriptions right and
left. The paper admitted to 1000 cancellations, but reliable
sources were soon reporting that the numbers were upwards of
It seemed like a lot of people were piling on the Dog
Trainer -- and it seemed like the Dog
Trainer deserved every last bit
had the Dog
Trainer limped away from the scandal of
its recall coverage, than it started screwing
up basic things no paper should get wrong, like quotations.
In one egregious example, a writer named Bill Arkin criticized
General Boykin for his inflammatory language about Muslims. Arkin
also in a senior Pentagon policymaking position, and it's a
mistake to allow a man who believes in a Christian "jihad" to
hold such a job.
context of the piece -- criticism of Boykin's poor choice of
words when discussing religion -- the
use of quotation
marks was designed to make less informed readers believe that
Boykin had actually said he believed in a Christian "jihad." But
he hadn't. Arkin defended the use of quotes around a word Boykin
hadn't said, as a "characterization." The paper never
issued a correction, despite a firestorm of criticism.
Not content with inventing quotes, the paper insisted on mangling
them as well. Predictably, the
victims turned out to be Republicans like Arnold.
THE POWER OF THE JUMP
of quotations was only one tool in the Dog Trainer's arsenal
of distortion. At my blog, I have identified
another: the use of the "jump." I have noted the paper's
noxious use of this tool in my semi-regular feature called "The
Power of the Jump."
As explained in the
initial post in which I used the term, the "jump" is
the place in a newspaper story where the story moves from page
A1 to one of the back pages that nobody reads. Reporters and
editors are well aware of this fact -- as a Dog Trainer reporter
to me. I have culled the following list of examples
of inconvenient facts that the Dog Trainer has saved for its
back pages. Interestingly, the buried facts tend to be those
that are embarrassing to the political left:
in influence-peddling contributions from a particular Los
Angeles insurance company were paid to California legislators.
the back pages did the editors reveal that the recipients
were primarily Democrats.
- A story
about the budget crisis highlighted Republicans' refusal
to raise taxes. Only
on the back pages did the editors reveal
that the problem also stemmed from the Democrats'
story discussed a confrontation between a Republican and a
Democrat in Washington. "Epithets and insults like
'wimp' and 'fruitcake' filled the air." A fistfight
almost broke out. The problem was blamed on the "frustrations
of Republicans eager to use their power and Democrats
tired of having
on the back pages did the editors reveal
that all of the epithets and insults came from a single
who had physically threatened the Republican, saying: "You
think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp? Come
on. Come over here and make me, I dare you. You little fruitcake."
in Sacramento planned to create a budget crisis for political
reasons. Their strategy sessions were inadvertently
broadcast throughout the State Capitol building. Stunned
people in the building heard a number of cynical quotes from
discussing how good it would be for the Democrats to cause
the budget crisis to come to a head. All the juicy quotes were
in . . . you guessed it: the
entire story of significance was relegated to the back pages.
Davis said "you shouldn't be governor unless
you can pronounce the name of the state," most people
considered that a big story. The Dog Trainer editors thought
on . . . the
back pages. It was a page A16 story for the
Dog Trainer, with the offensive quote saved for page A17.
the Dog Trainer's blindness to the significance of the story,
the Davis's quote created a furor after other news outlets
gave it appropriate prominence.
Dog Trainer reporter Ronald Brownstein discussed the Bush tax
on the back pages did the editors reveal
that Brownstein thought the tax cuts made President Bush
seem like a caring and effective leader.
was not an issue in UC admissions "overall," the
Dog Trainer revealed. Only
on the back pages did the editors
reveal that race was a significant admissions factor for
the two most elite schools -- the fact that had started the
to begin with.
Speaking of race,
a favorite trick of the Dog Trainer is to polarize its readership
on race issues. They had a doozy when
a white man was arrested for killing the sister of Venus and
Serena Williams. The headline was: "Race of Compton Suspect
Startles Police." Wow! The headline clearly implies that
racist cops didn't think a white man could be a killer! Well,
that wasn't quite what was going on. The police were simply surprised
that the white killer had been allowed to join a black gang --
since black gangs are typically racist and do not allow whites.
When whites join non-white gangs, they typically join Hispanic
gangs, not black gangs. Big deal. The headline should have read: "Police
Surprised That Racist Black Gang in Compton Allowed White Guy
as Member." But where's the fun in discussing race if you
can't inflame and polarize people?
Closely related to issues of race are issues relating to the
criminal justice system. Here again, the need to inflame is apparently
irresistible to Dog Trainer editors.
The paper had horrible
coverage of the racially charged trial of the police officers
accused of using excessive force against
Donovan Jackson in Inglewood. The paper consistently referred
to the case as a "beating" case, though no "beating" was
alleged. The paper portrayed
the victim's testimony as consistent on topics where other news outlets said he was not. Strangest
of all, when Officer Bijan Darvish was acquitted, the paper said,
he and his lawyer "shouted" the word "Yes!" Other
news outlets reported what I heard with my own ears: he said "Yes!" in
a loud whisper. Whisper, shout . . . what's the difference when
you're trying to make a point about arrogant racist cops?
Trainer reporters may just have overly sensitive hearing.
They also allegedly heard protesters shouting down Arnold Schwarzenegger
at one of his political rallies, though other reporters present
[including respected reporter Dan Weintraub of the Sacramento
no such thing.)
The paper's coverage
of the trial hit a low point when editors accused
the prosecution of "settling for a jury with only
one black member," when the facts (mostly unreported on
the news pages) showed that the prosecution had fought hard for
diversity on the jury. Indeed, the only black juror had been
stricken by the defense, until the prosecution convinced
the judge to reseat that juror because he had been removed for racial
reasons by the defense. The paper either didn't understand what
had really happened in jury selection, or didn't care.
Showcasing the paper's
well-known bias against police (and LAPD in particular), an
April article purported to raise a "moral
issue" about the LAPD's extensive use of resources to solve
the murder of an innocent 13-year old named Joey Swift. Apparently,
LAPD does not typically devote the same resources to gang killings
as it did to the murder of this innocent child.
I titled my post on
this story "THE MOTE IN YOUR EYE" since
the remarkable thing about this murder was not the police resources
used to solve the crime, but the media resources expended
covering it. Indeed, it was the extensive media coverage
of this case -- including five separate stories in the Dog
Trainer -- that
helped solve the case. And what are the newspaper resources devoted
to publicizing your typical gang murder? An LAPD detective answers
that question in the article, telling the reporter: "We
know that if we were to tell you a [murder victim] is a well-known
gang member, you would not cover it."
This story was simply one of many manifestations of the Dog
Trainer editors' anti-police bias. Another is their attitude
towards police pursuits.
If you have read the Dog
Trainer for a while, you know that
their editors don't like police pursuits. They skew the facts
of every story they get their hands on involving high-speed chases.
The editors have long pushed for reformation of the LAPD pursuit
policy, seeking to prevent chases that begin with simple traffic
infractions. The paper has pushed this agenda by hyping some
tragic crashes that occurred at the conclusion of police pursuits.
But the paper never
mentions that the so-called reforms would not have prevented
any of these crashes -- or that police pursuits
beginning with traffic infractions often result in the arrests
of serious and violent felons (including murderers).
The editors' dishonesty extends to descriptions of police pursuits
in other jurisdictions. For example, in
this post I described
how the Dog Trainer implied that a motorcyclist in Michigan had
been chased because he lacked a license, or had expired registration
tags. You had to read stories from other news outlets to learn
that the motorcyclist had sped in excess of 100 mph (over 70
in residential areas) and ran several stop signs. Nor does the
Dog Trainer tell you that the pursuing officer was several blocks
back when the motorcycle crashed. Why were these facts hidden
from you? Because the editors decided that you didn't
need to know them. In
a typical pattern that recurred throughout the year, the misleading article led to the publication of letters
to the editor which echoed the misleading statements from the
THE RECENT SUPREME COURT DECISION ON MIRANDA
The factors apparent in the previous story -- anti-police bias,
hiding facts from readers, and the subsequent printing of letters
containing factual misstatements -- were all evident again in
the paper's coverage of the Supreme Court decision last term
relating to Miranda rights. The Dog Trainer's coverage here was
a striking example of the paper's omission of critical facts
in covering Supreme Court decisions. (By the way, I haven't seen
this discussed anywhere else -- a Patterico exclusive!)
post on the topic summed up the problem. The Supreme
Court decision in question held that you can't sue the police
for failing to read you your Miranda rights. The story gave prominent
play to the facts that gave rise to the case: the plaintiff (Oliverio
Martinez) had been in an altercation with police. Martinez was
shot multiple times. The primary factual dispute in the case
was whether Martinez had pulled an officer's gun. The Dog
Trainer stories all completely failed to mention that, in a tape-recorded
interview, Martinez admitted that he had pulled the gun
on the officers. Worse, the paper ran a puff piece about poor crippled
Mr. Martinez, which also failed to mention his admission that
he pulled the gun. Worst of all, an editorial blatantly
misrepresented the contents of the tape-recorded interview by
the police had gotten nothing useful from Martinez. The editorial,
added to the two stories, made it a hat trick: three pieces of
I wrote a letter to
the editor of the Dog Trainer, John Carroll. He passed it on
to the "reader representative," who
took weeks to finally respond. When she did, her explanations
were pathetic. The bottom line is that the reporters
decided that the readers just didn't need to know facts like
admission that he pulled a gun on officers. You can read the
exchange of e-mails between myself and the reader's representative,
here and here.
days after I had written the paper this letter, correcting
their misstatements, the paper published
a letter that misrepresented
the same facts that had been misrepresented in the stories and
editorial. My faith in Carroll was diminishing rapidly.
And then, of course, came the recall election, which undermined
my confidence in Carroll almost beyond repair.
THE JOHN CARROLL MEMO
Earlier in the year,
I had higher hopes for John Carroll. Many who follow media
bias issues were stunned when it became public
knowledge that Carroll had written
an internal memorandum criticizing
a story about a Texas abortion law for its evident liberal bias.
My post on this amazing event was titled "HELL FREEZES OVER." I
was cautiously optimistic that Carroll's memorandum meant things
might be changing. My enthusiasm was tempered
by the fact that
the story he had discussed was hardly the worst that the paper
had to offer. Couldn't Carroll see that? As the year passed,
my suspicions about Carroll were reinforced, as one journalistic
atrocity after another piled up.
did Carroll preside over a terrible year for news reportage,
he was also ultimately responsible for some terrible editorials.
Typical of the factual
inaccuracies in Dog Trainer editorials were the howlers contained
in their screeds against Bush's judicial
nominations. For example, editors opposed
the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the federal bench, but called her "Patricia Owen." Now
that shows a keen grasp of the facts! Editors also blatantly
misrepresented William Pryor's stand on the Ten Commandments
flap in Alabama.
Almost worse than
the factually inaccurate editorials were the cutesy editorials
that showed up in the third position with alarming
regularity, bearing titles such as "Writing Real Good." Get
it? See, because . . .
And who writes the
headlines for this paper?? My award for stupidest Dog Trainer headline
all year: "Hunger Gnaws at Ethiopia." Get
I am unshakable in my belief that this headline was written
by the idiot who does the cutesy editorials.
This sort of professionalism
was evident all over the paper. For example, liberals everywhere
were happy to see Bill Bennett
brought down a peg or two by the revelations of his gambling.
Heck, I was too. Sharing the joy, a Dog Trainer reporter wrote
an article about Bennett's gambling, stating (in a comment typical
of the tone of the whole piece): "It is just too
very objective and professional!
MISTAKES, WE MAKE MISTAKES
Another serious problem at the Dog
Trainer is the mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes, but it is disturbing when the mistakes
seem to fit a pattern. Errors at the Dog Trainer consistently
seemed to support leftist views.
In one egregious example,
the Dog Trainer ran a prominent front-page article about a
guy who used to work for Tyson Chicken. He related
harrowing tales of his mass slaughter of chickens, saying he
had killed 80,000 chickens in a shift. He said his time at Tyson
was more haunting than when he had killed enemy soldiers in Panama,
or when he had spent time in prison for manslaughter. This was
a great story, except that he didn't kill 80,000 chickens
in a shift, he was never in Panama or even in the military, and
he didn't go to prison for manslaughter. But wasn't it a much
better story when all these things were reported to be true?
(Is it a coincidence that "animal rights" is considered
a liberal issue?)
The paper said that L.A. County lost a third of its revenue
when Arnold reduced the car tax, but in reality it lost about
4% of its revenue. (Did I mention that the paper doesn't like
Arnold, and opposes cutting taxes?)
election, the Dog Trainer printed a silly article arguing that the car
tax, which had been raised by administrative
fiat, could not be lowered to previous levels by administrative
fiat. This flew in the face of claims made by Republicans Schwarzenegger
and McClintock. The article backed up this ridiculous premise
by asserting that "Jon Coupal, president of the [Howard
Jarvis] taxpayers association, acknowledged that rescinding the
hike could require court action." Coupal had said no such
thing, and immediately wrote the editors to correct the statement.
The paper waited
13 days -- until after the election -- to correct the misstatement. (Did I mention that the paper editorialized
against the recall, and opposed the Republicans who claimed the
car tax could be lowered by fiat?)
Some of the corrections, to be sure, were of errors that were
not politically motivated, but were just
plain stupid. Let's
just say: if you follow the Dog Trainer's food recipes, make
sure the battery on your smoke detector still has some juice!
SINS OF OMISSION
Rather than getting something wrong, you can just ignore the
story. For example, I personally thought it was interesting when
the plaintiff from Roe v. Wade filed a motion to overturn the
case. I'll bet you did too. Well, guess what? The Dog Trainer didn't share our interest.
THE DOG TRAINER ON MEDIA BIAS
I've laid out what I think is a pretty good case for the bias
of the Dog Trainer. So what do Dog Trainer reporters think about
this media bias stuff?
In April, Dog
Trainer media critic David Shaw pontificated about
liberal bias in the media. Perhaps the most revealing thing he
mentioned: he had actually gone on vacation with someone
who opposes gun control -- twice! The fact that Shaw found this detail
important enough to mention said more than anything else in his
THE DOG TRAINER ON LIBERAL HOLLYWOOD
If you want a true
example of liberal bias at this paper, check out nut
case Tim Rutten. He had a compelling
piece about the
so-called "myth of liberal Hollywood." I'll say that
phrase again, so it sinks in: the "myth of liberal Hollywood."
I guess you can't argue with his logic. After all, look at all
the conservatives in Hollywood: Mel Gibson, Charlton Heston,
Bo Derek, Tom Selleck, uh . . . did I mention Mel Gibson? Meanwhile,
there are very few liberals in Hollywood (except for Tom Hanks,
Woody Harrelson, Martin Sheen, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds,
Cybill Shepherd, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Warren Beatty,
Susan Sarandon, Al Franken, Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, Rob Reiner,
Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Julia Roberts, Michael
Moore, Rosie O'Donnell, Robert Altman, Danny Glover, Jessica
Lange, Joanne Woodward, Jane Fonda, Janeane Garofalo, Cher, Sheryl
Crow, Bono, Sean Penn, Anjelica Huston, Harry Belafonte, George
Clooney, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Aniston, Oprah, John Cusack,
Madonna, Ed Harris, Kate Hudson, Richard Gere, Ed Norton, Dustin
Hoffman, Larry Hagman, Matt Damon, Robert Redford, Woody Allen,
Whoopi Goldberg, David Clennon, James Cromwell, Kevin Costner,
or Johnny Depp).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
No one person
can catalogue all of the sins committed by this paper in an
entire year. This has been one person's attempt to
point out a few things that caught my eye. If you have other
examples, feel free to send them by way of my blog.
However, one person can indeed summarize the basic problem with
this paper. I can't say it any better than Hugh
more diversity at a militia meeting than at a party of Los
Angeles Times columnists. What happens when a newspaper
becomes an echo chamber? Obvious errors and over-the-top biases
go undetected. That's what happened in New York. It is happening
in Los Angeles as well.
As Joe Lieberman
would say: Amen, brother!
Lopez e-mails to tell me that he doesn't earn anything close
a year. Just so it's clear: I didn't make that
number up, but took it from this
L.A. Examiner post. But Lopez
says it's wrong, and I'll take his word for it. (He didn't tell
me how much he does make, by the way . . . he sort of implied
it wasn't anybody's business -- and maybe he has a point -- so
I didn't ask. I'm guessing $140 is still chump change for him.
For most people, it's not.)
This piece originally appeared at the blog Patterico's