Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Morning news meeting, less grumpy edition

I've been enjoying picking up the LA Times every morning since we've been here. I'd forgotten how big it is -- the Sunday paper was 548 pages -- and I've been pleasantly reminded of how good it is. At home I seldom make it through the paper; I lose interest. Here I haven't been able to get through a complete edition either, but it's because there's so much I want to read that I run out of time to finish.

Today, for example, I got caught up in a fascinating front-page article about a decision by the band Radiohead to offer its next album for download at the price of ... whatever people want to pay! They're leaving that up to the consumer, betting that good will or a strong conscience will lead people to do the right thing. And I read two longish but excellent sports columns on subjects I don't care at all about -- the season prospects of the Lakers basketball team and the historic, 1925 visit to the Rose Bowl by the Notre Dame football team. Man, they were both interesting, and so well written.

It's also fun to run across the bylines of people I worked with during my three years here. Yesterday, one of my old reporters, Sharon Bernstein, had a fascinating front-page story -- it led the paper, in fact -- about how Los Angeles spends millions monitoring traffic with a sophisticated citywide computer system, but doesn't save the data to use for long-term traffic planning. Wow. Smart reporting, with Sharon's usual taut, clear writing.

It's funny. I don't have anything to do with the paper now, and honestly didn't have that much to do with it when I was here, outside my little group, but I take a vicarious, refracted pride in reading it. To me, along with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and maybe a couple of others, the Los Angeles Times is what newspaper journalism is supposed to be. I feel lucky to have had a chance to work here, and if I ever land in this stupid business again, I'd love to have another crack at this place.

Speaking of the luck that brought me here, I'm having lunch this afternoon with Miriam Pawel, my old boss, who has since left the paper to work on a book. I've talked to her but haven't seen her since I returned to Seattle in 2004, and I'm looking forward to our date.

In the summer of 2001 I was broke, unemployed, freshly divorced, without prospects and beginning to get spooked when one afternoon the phone rang. It was Miriam.

"I'm the new metro editor of the Los Angeles Times," she introduced herself. "I talked to some people who worked with you and said you were pretty good. I wonder if you'd be interested in coming down here to talk?"

That was a pretty lucky save. It turned into a great three years professionally and personally. I learned a tremendous amount, was inspired daily by the terrific journalists all around me and was given forever a pretty high bar for the M&M Morning News Meeting.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Correction: Miriam reminded me today that we did get together for brunch once when Michelle and I were visiting LA, after we had moved back to Seattle.