LA's Scandals and the Media Distractions

Random Lengths News | July 12, 2007
Our columnist Art Vinsel jokingly reminded me the other day that in a city that has given us such comedy partners as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello as well as Cheech and Chong that we shouldn’t be very surprised at the antics of Rocky (Delgadillo) and Tony (Antonio Villaraigosa)! The Los Angeles City Attorney and the Mayor seemed to have teamed up for a back to back scandal routine that has both of them working overtime to prove that they should be judged on their public performance and not their private lives. To the discredit of the LA media machine, the Mayor’s dalliance with the Telemundo journalist Mirthala Salinas, which prompted his divorce from his wife of twenty years seems a bit like Paris Hilton’s jail coverage. The press has hounded him but hasn’t made Antonio cry in public yet.

In fact, if Paris hadn’t received such a stern sentence for driving on a suspended license, then Delgadillo’s problem with his wife doing pretty much the same thing, plus crashing the city-owned SUV probably wouldn’t have received much notice. If you haven’t noticed, the rest of the LA City Council is particularly mum (or shall I say numb?) on the issues of both personal use of City owned cars and their personal affairs.

On the issue of personal use of City vehicles, I had the chance to ask the former wife of Mayor James Hahn about this issue to which she responded that her husband wouldn’t even let her back the Mayor’s car out of the driveway so that she could get her car out of the garage! And that Mayor Hahn routinely would come home first to drop off the City car before going shopping or running the family errands. Such was the integrity of Mayor Hahn’s administration, which I have said in the past we would one day regret having dismissed. As such, I doubt that the majority of Angelinos have gotten to this point. More episodes of the Rocky and Tony show have not been scheduled. Like all good comedy, it just happens.

There are, however, a few problems here––ethical in nature. City employees do not have the right or privilege to use city resources for their personal use! Rule #1: It doesn’t matter if you are the City Attorney or the dogcatcher, you don’t give your wife the keys to the city car. Delgadillo should know this better than anyone, being the City attorney. His wife’s inability to pay her traffic fines should be her problem, but it does lead one to wonder if certain people get special treatment by way of our not-so-blind justice system. If she had been poor and the wife of a nobody, she may well have gotten jail time for a bench warrant. This is an ethical problem for our superior court judges. Rule #2: Our court system has to be indifferent to wealth and privilege in meting out sentences. Paris Hilton got more than average because it became such a media spectacle and it would have been a judicial embarrassment to let her out early.

The media’s role in all of this is both confusing and contradictory. On the one hand, they have the right and obligation to report on public figures, court cases that give the public oversight on the fairness of proceedings, and actions taken by the government, their elected officials and yes, even celebrities. But what happens when the news agency or the reporter in Ms. Salinas’ case is implicated in the subject of her reporting (the Mayor in this case)? The hypocrisy of Telemundo seems to be revealed by a statement made by Salinas after she was put on a paid leave of absence. She said she told management that she was involved in the story about the Mayor’s divorce (she was the reason for it) and then she was told to read it anyway! Rules #3 and 4: Reporters should never sleep with the subject of their stories and editors should know better than compromise their reporters integrity.

The bigger problem is that the media has been so dumbed-down with scintillating celebrity scandal news and the public has become so inured to it that when something really scandalous does occur—like the Scooter Libby -Valerie Plame investigation that should have netted a conviction of our Vice President Dick Cheney and presidential sidekick Carl Rove on charges of treason, conspiracy and mishandling of classified information—nobody seems to raise an eyebrow or dig beneath the surface.

Here lies the problem of the corporate-owned media and their blind allegiance to power and bottom line journalism–the Chicago Tribune, which owns the LA Times and the other TV media in Los Angeles don’t need Antonio or Rocky as much as Antonio and Rocky need them. So the media are free to report anything on them that do not get them sued. But go after Cheney or Rove or Bush and they may find the IRS calling for a tax audit, or worse having the corporate advertising nipple yanked and White House access denied!

Is it any wonder that corporate media’s readership numbers continue to decline? Rule #5: Give the public sexual circuses and scandalous sideshows and ignore the really big news.

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Founded in 1979 as a counterbalance to the conservative, corporate- owned daily paper, Random Lengths News draws on the rich history of the Los Angeles Harbor Area. The name harkens back to a description of the lumber that used to...
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