The idiocy going on at the management level in our local print media never fails to astonish. As the various management bean counters become ever more panicked about their respective bottom lines, they continue to demonstrate the old maxim my mother used to favor— penny wise and pound foolish—in new and interesting ways seemingly on a weekly basis.
The latest in LA media’s STUPID MANAGEMENT TRICKS is the decision of LA Citybeat’s shot callers to eliminate the job of its news editor and columnist (and my close pal) Alan Mittelstaedt.
I’ve known about this for days but have not been able to say anything. However I notice that Kevin Roderick at LA Observed announced it yesterday with a follow-up today, and Alan sent a wonderfully eloquent (and gracefully humorous) letter to friends, writers and colleagues today—so I guess the word’s out.
The irony is that, aside from the fact that Alan is an excellent editor, he is Citybeat’s best bet for saving money, not spending it—that is if Citybeat also wants to retain….what’s the word I’m looking for?….oh, yeah, quality.
Along with being a news editor with great instincts and a stellar Rolodex (metaphorically speaking since Rolodex’s are now museum artifacts), Alan wrote LA Sniper, a fabulously muckraking column that was one of the paper’s main pleasures—AND he talked terrific pro-writers like Jeff Anderson into writing for the paper for near to nothing.
Even better, by mentoring smart interns and graduate students, Alan managed to get a string of kick-ass cover stories out of the aforementioned for pennies.
In other words, Alan is not the dude you want to eliminate if you’re looking to produce hot shot news writing, while nipping and tucking the budget.
Rebecca Schoenkopf AKA the columnist Commie Girl, formerly of the OC Weekly, is the editor-in-chief—for the moment anyway. I understand Schoenkopf is a very nice person, and her Commie Girl column—while resolutely personal and sorta life-style-ish—was also edgy and amusing as she poked sticks at the rich and the mega-rich.
But, thus far, her leanings are in the the direction of, shall we say, soft news (read life style) and not hard news. So will Rebecca have a sudden issue-oriented conversion and be able to guide young reporters into covering the hard but great stories that the LA Times and the LA Weekly have missed?
One never knows, I guess. But frankly I’m not over confident.
If she cannot, this means that, as LA readers, we have lost the goals
that Alan shared with (also fired) founding editor Steve Appleford, namely (as Alan wrote in his letter):
CityBeat must pursue week after week the duplicitous, self-serving politicians who too often put their own interests ahead of the public’s, and spotlight those community leaders who are fighting to improve Los Angeles. We made our top priorities transportation, air quality and increased coverage of city and county government. We were outstaffed by the dailies, but we still carved out a spot to be heard above the rest. On good weeks, we had an additional full page for news and produced cover packages on the subway, the mayor and city politics.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but THIS SUCKS.
I’m sorry for Alan on this. It’s a tough business, and he has done more than expected to earn his job. Maybe they are looking for someting more conservative or some hard-hitting articles like LA Weekly’s article on the bacon bra. Good luck, Alan.
For those unfamiliar with the hard hitting articles to which Woody refers, click here:
Thank God they didn’t have a bacon thong.
Well, I wasn’t going to give the bacon bra link, but Celeste knows what readers want. Randy, how about a salmon skin bikini created by a Chilean fashion designer?
Alan, see what management wants from its news editors? If you can wrtie about, say, a bacon burka, you’ll be in high demand.
Gah! I am sorry to hear this.
Absolutely, penny wise and pound foolish. Alan, if you’re out there, shoot me a new email address. I’m not inclined to lose track of you now.
Damn. Indeed. This does suck.
I was always amused by Alan, although some of his guerrilla tactics may have rubbed some pols and people in power wrong way. When he showed up to ride the subway with the Mayor, that story was dead-on, not offensive either; he was one of the few who have a sense of history about the subway, and the endless reinventions of Zev Y and Waxman, from the ones who stalled the Subway when it could have provided critical relief, to among those who now jump out at the front of the caboose of any transportation train. (He was off on always ribbing the Mayor for not giving “credit” where it was due on Pico-Olympic — the opposite was true, Zev lobbed a totally unthought-out grenade out there about one-way streets, and when it was refine and studied by the Mayor and Weiss for some 18 months, it was Zev who never put in ONE kind word on their efforts to salvage his plan as workable.)
Alan also started a wild rumor that it was the Mayor and his supporters who were behind the (retrospectively, we can see) short-lived plan to get Rocky removed as City Attorney, to put in their own supporters. Rocky needs NO help in making himself look like a moron, and if ONLY he’d been taken down at least a year ago.
But I wonder if Alan’s last trick, of harassing David Nahai over his water bill — even showing up unannounced at his home to try to get it from his wife — had something to do with complaints that he went too far? Steve Lopez does that kind of stuff, but with a movie coming out and a celeb status, maybe it just goes to show, that only celeb reporters OR any celeb in any field, can get away with being in-your-face obnoxious to pursue a story.
Alan is a great writer though, and if he can “grow up” will surely land on his feet again and again. Good luck! (The one I’d love to see removed is that Marc Cooper — whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, it’s utterly unpro to write hit piece after hit piece, week after week on her, without even a pretense of objectivity in the Dem race. The suck-up pieces on Obama, in contrast, make me barf.)
Commie Girl will be the downfall of CityBeat.
It’s worse than you all know. The guys who run CB are a bunch of self-serving hacks. I worked there for a few years. While we all busted our asses to make CB a great local newspaper – for next to nothing each week, they cut staff and salaries while playing poker in Malibu and giving themselves huge bonuses and perks.
It’s too bad. CityBeat was a great little paper. I’ll miss it.
Eh, I can’t say this is such a terrible thing. The L.A. Weekly, for instance, has been in steady decline every since the New Times bought it out, and excellent writers like Harold Meyerson began jumping ship. The golden days for me were when I could count on an excellent piece by John Powers, some hard-hitting local writing by Meyerson, and then a searing Cooper column. Now all that’s left is Cooper. Mittelstaedt, meanwhile, took his irritating LA Sniper schtick to City Beat, which was no great loss for the Weekly (which had already dropped to low quality for the aforementioned reasons). I have no opinion on the CityBeat since I gave up on L.A.’s “alternative” weeklies a couple years back, but I highly doubt that Alan’s departure is going to be such a crushing blow for any parties involved.
Oh, and it’s “Mittelstaedt” with “ae”, not “ea” as your topic line reads.
Arrrggggghhhh! I’ve only typed Alan’s last name (correctly) maybe 543 times in the course of working with him so the fact that I managed to get it wrong this time (twice!) Is indeed a thing of wonder.Thnx for flagging it. Me and my blackberry have made the corrections.
I hear that on June 12th they are re-launching the paper, a friend of mine is writing some type of bi-weekly column for them – I hear it pays ok and that there will be many new things in the new paper including a new logo/cover – I’ll reserve judgment but I was sad to hear about Alan getting fired he is a good egg – I hope he continues to write occasionally for the rag…as for the new editor commie chic or whatever, kudos I think she is raising hell and citybeat now finally has a pulse…
Yeah, he’s a pretty good editor, but he kinda looks like a turtle.
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