Friday, October 20, 2006

The Rigors of Professional Journalism

As a long time resident of Los Angeles, I used to be an avid reader of the Los Angeles Times. In fact, I grew up reading it during the period under Otis Chandler when that newspaper became world class. I am grateful to the paper of that era for the education it gave me.

I am sad now for the depths to which the newspaper has sunk.

I could go on at length about the problems in management and content, but let me make just one example now. For many years one of the Times' travel writers has been Susan Spano. Ms. Spano was not one of my favorite writers, but then travel writing doesn't usually have the weight of other sections of the newspaper so her fluffy, poorly crafted pieces that included little to no observational insights about her destinations did not matter much.

A few years she apparently talked her editors into letting her move to and work from Paris. Ah, what a deal. I could be persuaded to write a few blog posts a week and a travel piece once a month or so if I got the opportunity to live in Paris as a writer. One might expect that giving an aspiring writer the chance to work in Paris would produce something - better quality in writing or at least enthusiasm about the place. But one might be wrong.

I long ago stopped reading Ms. Spano. When I saw she had some pieces about France I began following her ramblings again, but her writing had not improved. I suppose I could say I was disappointed, but that wouldn't be right because my expectations of her were already so low that there was no room to disappoint. Or so I thought, until now.

In the few years that she has been living and writing in Paris, her output has seemed to increase in frequency but decrease in quality. Today's blog post though is utterly devoid of redeeming qualities, and is a superlative example of what an absolutely talentless reporter and journalist this person is.

After about three years of living in Paris as a writer, she posts the plaintive question to her readership: "Who is Marianne?"

Actually, let me quote her from

"Does anyone know why France is called as Marianne? Who was she anyway?

It strikes me as perfect that the country is known by that name, while American is Uncle Sam.

Uncle Sam and Marianne should get cozy instead of wrangling over genetically engineered food and how to handle the nuclear threat posed by Iran."

I had to post a reply. I'm not proud of it, but neither am I ashamed of it. I feel a bit disgusted that I am actually wasting thirty minutes of valuable time writing about this, but it is truly a shame that the Los Angeles Times, formerly a great newspaper, continues to keep this person on the payroll when it simultaneously cuts more and better writers from its home offices and bureaus.

Here is my reply.

Is this a serious question? And from a purported reporter who has lived in France for - what is it now - three years? A five second trip to Wikipedia will tell you that Marianne is the symbol of the Revolution, and it will tell you ever so much more.

I find it uttely astonishing that a journalist and reporter has to ask this question of the readership. I doubt that a French reporter would have asked the same question about Uncle Sam after living in this country for three years.

I guess it's not just American schoolchildren who are ignorant and uninquisitive.

And from what I have read elsewhere, this blog does not print comments that are less than favorable, so I guess this comment is likely to die in cyberspace.

Quelle irony, that this should be my fifth post to the Euphoriac blog and it should be such a pathetic thing.

But the truth of the matter is that Spano is known to not post critical comments to her blog, so I wanted to get this comment on the record in a place where she can't sweep it under the rug and I can have some small proof that she has been called on her utter ignorance and lack of reportorial capacity.