YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


'Clippers' Scan Pages to Send Their Own Message to Media


Jim Horwitz says he was "just an all-around good guy" with no strong political sentiments when he moved to Los Angeles in 1946 and enrolled at UCLA.

"I didn't have a clue as to what was going on," the Minneapolis native recalled. "I was interested in sports and girls."

Then something happened. "Everything changed for me when I saw the McCarthy hearings on television," he said.

The 1954 hearings led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy into alleged communist influence in the Army marked the peak of the decade's anti-communist fervor. They left a lasting impression on many people. On Horwitz, the effect was to propel him into Democratic Party politics.

He ran unsuccessfully for Congress. He also tried for an Assembly seat and lost. All the while he was running a plumbing supply business. But he was determined to stay involved. He started writing a local political column for a community newspaper and ended up buying the paper.

"That was great fun," he said. "But it was the most expensive fun I ever had. I lost a lot of money and eventually was happy to sell it."

Today, Horwitz is a member of Clippers, a group of citizens who monitor the media through FAIR--Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. FAIR is a national organization of 9,000 members that scrutinizes the media on the lookout for practices the group claims slight the public interest and minority viewpoints.

"The system isn't wrong," Horwitz said. "It's the people who run it that need to be accountable, and that includes the Democrats. And the media is part of the problem. It's only through citizen activism that things will change. The older generation are the ones who have enough experience to pick up on problems and do something."

The Clippers' Los Angeles group, based in Brentwood, ranges in age from 20 to 70. Its members monitor all of the media and meet weekly to review how to respond. Sometimes they organize a letter-writing campaign, such as a recent one to the editor of The Times criticizing the Op-Ed page's Column Left feature for not being progressive enough.

Sometimes they follow one issue through the national media. The Clippers have been particularly critical of the coverage given to the check-cashing scandal in the House of Representatives.

"There were no bouncing checks--that was the first misrepresentation," Horwitz said. "Not one taxpayer lost money. No funds were stolen."

Despite his longtime devotion to liberal causes, Horwitz says he doesn't think the left has been doing such a great job lately, and as far as he is concerned, it is part of the problem too.

"I don't mind the old guard if they do a good job, but they're not. We have to flush the cistern and get new leadership," he said.

Last week, Horwitz attended the Republican National Convention as a member of the media: He conducted interviews for radio station KPFK. His next project is to publish a fax newsletter called Politician Watch. The former Minnesota Boy Scout regards it as his duty.

FAIR's Los Angeles office is at 901 Bringham Ave. in Brentwood. Information: (310) 326-2995.

Los Angeles Times Articles