Monday, June 12, 2006

Los Angeles Times Innocent Of Ignoring Los Angeles... For Once...

In an on-line exclusive, LAOBSERVED quotes Cal State Fullerton professor Jeffrey Brody on why the LAT's expose of bad judges in Vegas is a bad thing for Los Angeles and the LAT.

Last week's Los Angeles Times investigative series on judges in Las Vegas was impressive as a piece of reporting, but a bad sign for the paper, writes Jeffrey Brody, professor of communications at California State Fullerton. He is also co-author of The Newspaper Publishing Industry, a book that examined economic trends affecting papers. Here's his commentary, only at LA Observed:

The investigative reports about Nevada judges illustrate the strength of a great paper like the LA Times. It also illustrates the shortsightedness of the paper's editors at a time when the newspaper has been bleeding circulation. Rather than devote resources to investigating the California judiciary, a local story, the Times puts its energy in an out-of-state effort that will certainly win prizes but do little to boost readership in Southern California.

While I do agree that some of the LAT's national stories are somewhat besides the point, in this case I disagree. First, Las Vegas is in the LAT's market. Second, Las Vegas is to a certain extent a suburb of Los Angeles since LA supplies the largest number of its visitors, many of its second home buyers and a lot of now full time residents who are still interested in Los Angeles.

Most importantly, though, many of the people most affected by the crooked judges in Nevada are Los Angeles business people and visitors to Vegas.

And that's three good reasons why the Los Angeles Times should have covered this story.


About half-way down the first page of the first of the LA Times's three part series, the LAT presents their case why this expose is important to the people of Los Angeles...,0,5737582,print.story?coll=la-home-headlines

.... Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Since 1960, census figures show, its population has exploded by 1,246%. But many of its courts have not grown with it, much less grown up.

At the heart of the Las Vegas court system are 21 state judges who hear civil and criminal cases, and who can be assigned anywhere in Nevada, but who are called district judges because they work out of courthouses in the judicial districts where they are elected.

These state judges often dispense a style of wide-open, frontier justice that veers out of control across ethical, if not legal, boundaries. The consequences reach beyond Nevada, affecting people in other states, especially California.

Some of the effect falls upon visitors from Los Angeles who come here to gamble, flirt with sin and have a good time. More than a quarter — about 29% — of the 38.5 million visits to Las Vegas in 2005 were made by Southern Californians, including many who came here more than once.

By that estimate, published by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Southern Californians make more than 11 million visits to Las Vegas every year. But the effect falls, as well, upon Californians in business. Like Michael Farney of Ojai, who owned Elite Marine, a boat company that served southern Nevada and Lake Mead, an uncounted number of people from Southern California hold financial interests in Las Vegas and its surrounding metropolitan area.

Of all businesses that relocate to Nevada, according to the state Commission on Economic Development, at least 36% come from California.

Whether they want to play or do business, all who come to Las Vegas, from Southern California or elsewhere across the nation, expect a fair shake, especially from its courts. Las Vegas is a town, however, where some judges, operating in a new $185-million Clark County courthouse two blocks from casinos, wedding chapels and strip clubs, routinely rule in cases involving friends, former clients and business associates, even in cases touching people to whom they owe money.

Case closed! Verdict for... the Los Angeles Times!

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