One of the most remarkable stories I read in the Los Angeles Times this year was a look at a small community of immigrants from Mexico's Costa Chica centered in Pasadena. The story, published in April, gave us a fascinating dose of nuance for a region long accustomed to overwrought tales of 'brown vs. black' violence and tension. Veteran metro reporter and editor John L. Mitchell wrote the piece. This week he was named among 75 editorial staffers at the LAT who were bought out or fired.
Mitchell will no longer be bringing L.A. and world readers stories such as these at a time when we need smart community journalism the most. Neither will Francisco Vara-Orta, a young staffer just starting out his career. Or Lynelle George. Or Agustin Gurza. And these are just a few names from this recent round of cuts at the LAT, the third so far this year. Add to them Connie Kang, Lorenza Muñoz, Cheryl Brownstein-Santiago, Sergio Muñoz, Solomon Moore, Sam Enriquez, Caitlin Liu, Gayle Pollard-Terry, Frank Sotomayor, Camilo Smith, Barbara Serrano, Daniel Yi, Martha Flores, Evelyn Iritani, Mike Terry, Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Mai Tran, Joe Hutchinson, Janet Clayton, and many others, all journalists of color who have left around or since the departures of former editors John Carroll and Dean Baquet. See more here.
Without these journalists, the situation has gone beyond tragic or sad. It is an extension of the failures I detailed in this LA Weekly feature, "Shades of Brown," using the Frank del Olmo papers at CSUN. The piece shows how the morass of late-20th Century identity politics combined with blunders at the corporate and newsroom-leadership level over how exactly the paper should cover L.A.'s changing demographic make-up continue to haunt the L.A. Times to this day. In the end it's not so much the color of people's faces or their surnames that count, but their ability as journalists to connect dots for the daily news report across cultures, languages, borders, and disparate neighborhoods -- which, really, is what life in L.A. is all about.
While all our best hopes and wishes are with the few left who keep at it over there on Spring Street, the chief news source for the most colorful place in America just got incredibly duller. Eventually markets and the new media landscape will settle and equalize things, but for now, these cuts amount to an abdication of the LAT's duty to its readers and the community.