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Times Coverage of LAPD, Minority Areas

THE MEDIA & THE LAPD: From Coziness to Conflict. One in a series. Next: Covering the Rodney G. King beating and its aftermath.

May 26, 1992|DAVID SHAW

Peter H. King, then city editor of The Times and now a columnist, says he did take the issue seriously, and in early 1990, he asked reporter Ron Harris to look at police treatment of young black males.

Harris made preliminary inquiries and wrote King a lengthy memo proposing a broad series of perhaps 10 stories probing police treatment of blacks. Much of what Harris wrote in his memo foreshadowed what would later be written in The Times and other media in the aftermath of the Rodney G. King beating, but King said he "wasn't interested in a story that laid out a lot of facts." He wanted a more personal, "subjective . . . impressionistic" story, rather than the traditional reportage Harris favored.

Harris says he knew King's approach would yield stories that "would pull at the heartstrings of the readers," but he thought that approach too "touchy-feely" to be effective on this issue.

Harris declined to do the story King's way; King thought that his way was the right way--and that Harris, a talented black reporter, was the only person on the staff who could do it right.

So no one did it--until about five months \o7 after\f7 the King beating, when Peter King asked Stephen Braun, a talented white reporter, to look at police-minority relations. Braun's moving, six-part series, "Scenes From the Inner City," was published four months later.

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