Claremont Insider: The LA Times Dumbs Down

Monday, March 24, 2008

The LA Times Dumbs Down

On Saturday the Los Angeles Times' California Section had a profile of Pomona Mayor Norma Torres. The article, by Times reporter Paloma Esquivel, did a very poor job of presenting a balanced view of Torres' record as mayor.

The Times piece was really a campaign kick-off for Torres, and we think the Times owes an apology, as well as equal coverage, to the other candidates running to replace Nell Soto. And we're not the only ones who feel this way. Ed Barrera at the Editor's Corner, a San Gabriel Valley Tribune blog, had a blurb about the Times article.

John Clifford at M-M-M-My Pomona also wrote about the piece and said:

An obvious PR piece in the news business is usually called a "puff" piece and this certainly qualifies. How anyone can spin the mayor's "feud" with chief Romero as a positive, really doesn't understand the outrage of the community.

Esquivel's article claimed that Torres is "considering a run for the state assembly." But it's no secret (except to the LA Times) that Torres is running, and the seat Torres is seeking, the 61st Assembly District, is occupied by Torres' mentor, former Pomona Mayor Nell Soto - another fact omitted from the Esquivel piece.

The article also barely touched on the feud Torres started with Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero, who is generally well-liked by Pomonans. And it completely ignored the fact that Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez would never have been elected had Torres not endorsed Alvarez. Alvarez, as most of you know, is facing federal criminal charges for lying about having won a Medal of Honor. Alvarez also falsely claimed he was still married to his ex-wife so that she could get medical benefits from Three Valleys. Alvarez is also the fellow who is defending his behavior by arguing in court that he has a First Amendment right to lie.

The Alvarez affair alone should disqualify Torres from running for higher office. In endorsing Alvarez, Torres indirectly aided in the perpetration of a fraud on the the people of her city, and she was responsible for a highly qualified and experienced incumbent, Luis Juarez, losing his water board seat. Yet, no mention of any of this in the Esquivel article.

Torres' patron, Nell Soto, herself came under the spotlight last year when she missed months of Assembly legislative sessions due to illness. Although she remained at home in Pomona, Soto continued to collect tens of thousands in per diem for living expenses. Soto's absence wasn't really noticed locally until the Foothill Cities wrote about it.

As we've written in the past, the type of political machine that produced Torres seems to encourage incompetence because the people at top generally don't want to be shown up by surrounding themselves with underlings who might be smarter or more talented. Consequently, there's a gradually dumbing down of the process: Nell Soto begets Norma Torres begets Xavier Alvarez. With each iteration, the quality of leadership is diminished. We've seen this happen here in Claremont over the years, and it's hell pulling the community out of the pit that's been dug.

The LA Times and their reporter not only missed the pertinent facts behind their story, they also failed the voting public with what is at best lazy reporting and at worst a use of the paper as an adjunct to a political campaign. We expect better reporting from a national paper like the Los Angeles Times, and we trust they'll not repeat this sorry performance in the future.

Soto, Torres, and Alvarez do not emerge out of a vacuum, and the Times ought to devote its resources to understanding and explaining what is really happening here rather than presenting a People Magazine profile in its news section.

In the meantime, if you really want to catch the Pomona Troika, you can see them hawking themselves nightly on the Home Shopping Network:

(Click to Enlarge)