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Business Writer Was Wrong Choice for 'Wetlands' Review

May 01, 1999

Because The Times has ignored the issue of the destruction of the Ballona Wetlands with the exception of a few pro-Playa Vista/DreamWorks PR pieces, it is not surprising that it had James Bates of the Business section "review" the documentary film on the issue instead of a real movie critic, who might have given a positive review, offending several large advertisers (" 'Wetlands' More Promotion Than Documentary," April 24).

Showing his ignorance of what a documentary actually is, Bates pans "The Last Stand: The Struggle for Ballona Wetlands" because it doesn't automatically make both sides look equally good and has too many cons with not enough pros. Heaven help Bates if he ever has to review a documentary on the Ku Klux Klan or Ted Bundy.

The portion that most blatantly shows Bates' prejudice against saving the wetlands is his statement that people supporting Playa Vista/DreamWorks "are made either to look sleazy or misguided." That's because they are either sleazy or misguided, and why the sleaziest of the supporters refused to be interviewed in the film. Apparently Bates believes that the filmmakers should have done a puff piece on these people in absentia so as not to contradict The Times' own lack of balance.

The Times should either leave movie reviews to the movie critics or have Kenneth Turan write about IPOs, options and derivatives.


Los Angeles

It's very interesting to me that the Calendar editors didn't look to either of their excellent television critics, Howard Rosenberg or Brian Lowry, for a review of Sheila Laffey's documentary on the plight of the Ballona Wetlands. Bates' call for documentary objectivity sounds especially cynical coming from a newspaper with such a craven history of sucking up to powerful business interests at the expense of the rest of us.TIM DOYLE


Bates' final words of advice to the filmmakers, "Next time let PBS' 'Frontline' handle the job," hits the same note as the studio system, which is to make everything smooth and glossy. To these people there is nothing uglier than the sincerity of a grass-roots effort.


Lecturer, Department of Biology


As a professor of environmental law, I was amazed to read the one-sided report on "The Last Stand" by Lorenza Munoz and the accompanying review by James Bates.

Munoz states that the viewpoints of the Playa Vista developers were absent in the film, yet it gave a fairly high percentage of time to a contractor working on the project who described it in great detail and clearly stated the developers' opinion that the site was too far degraded to be of any ecological value. Bates' piece was even more biased, as he did not even attempt to describe the anti-development point of view but characterized the activists as narcissistic "Woodstock veterans" without knowing anything about them.

I have been a litigator on various sides of environmental court cases and know that the situation is far more complex than these Times reporters portray; just because a site is degraded does not mean it cannot be cleaned up, as the parties to the recent Los Cerritos Wetlands negotiation in Long Beach have agreed to do. All estuarine wetlands have immense ecological value as bird-nesting grounds, sea-life nurseries and water filtration systems, and can be restored to varying degrees depending upon the financial resources that can be committed.


Whittier Law School

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