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VOICES

Commentary on local issues, viewpoints of residents and community leaders, and letters. : An 'Irresponsible Media'? That's News to Him

June 20, 1993|DENNIS C. SCHATZMAN | Dennis C. Schatzman is a general assignment reporter and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Sentinel.

Now that the smoke has cleared, we have all been told who the real guilty party is. The jury is in and the verdict is clear. The real culprit responsible for last year's destruction following the Simi Valley verdicts in the Rodney King beating case, and the chief instigator of the mass paranoia preceding April's federal court jury verdicts in the same beating, is . . . the media.

Well, isn't that what our area's best and brightest business, religious and civic leaders have been saying?

I guess I'm at fault, too. I am a journalist; and I did my share of reporting before during and after the "Riot of '92" and pitched in more than a few paragraphs before, during and after the Rodney King civil rights federal trial.

But when I say it's my fault, mind you, I'm not serious. I am a reporter. Like my colleagues in both print and broadcast media, my job is to report the news, not serve as the area's conscience, as its psychologist, or its priest, or its best buddy! When I saw looting The Boys market at LaBrea Avenue and Rodeo Road, what was I supposed to do? Not cover it?

I'm not apologizing for my role in reporting the news. None of my colleagues--like KCRW-FM's Warren Olney, David Garcia over at KNBC-TV Channel 4, Cindy Vandor at KCAL-TV Channel 9 or photographer Kirk McKoy and that bunch over at The Times--should, either.

The men and women who have led the assaults against the media for doing its job are--to borrow a phrase from the late New York lawyer Roy Cohn--"blaming others for their own inadequacies."

Wasn't it these same leaders who allowed the seeds that sprouted the riot to germinate in the first place? Couldn't they have gotten rid of former Police Chief Daryl Gates a long time ago? Didn't these men and women hold the power to rectify the economic and criminal justice wrongs that have been felt by this area's minorities for decades?

Of course they are.

Ironically, the same people who criticize the media for its coverage of the year's events are the same people who privately try to manipulate these same reporters, editors, news directors and publishers into publicizing their own personal projects.

Recently on KCET-TV Channel 28's "Life and Times," Rep. Maxine Waters scolded the "irresponsible media" up one side and down the other. At the same time, however, The Times was printing a portion of her "Letter from Maxine" on the editorial page, while several specialized newspapers were inserting the "letter" in their editions, at no cost to her. Actions of an "irresponsible media"? You be the judge.

A reporter's job is to report the news. Sometimes it's news you like; sometimes it's news you detest. But it's news. And you, the reader, would be ill-informed if you didn't have it, good bad or ugly.

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