The media world has been abuzz recently regarding TMZ founder Harvey Levin — though not for the usual reasons. Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy investigators recently obtained phone records from the gossip journalist, attempting to find out who provided Levin details about Mel Gibson’s 2006 anti-Semitic rank during a drunk-driving arrest.
First Amendment defenders — if I may be so bold — say this is patently illegal. Law enforcement officials say it’s completely proper. Now, you may virulently disagree with Levin’s ways and methods, but keep this in mind: Most free speech law in this country has been shaped or created by less-than-sympathetic individuals. Besides, TMZ is based in Glendale, and I feel a need to stick up for the locals.
Though I have no idea whether Levin will be speaking about the issue, he will be speaking about something next week at a Radio and Television News Association event. Details are below.
The State of the News Business 2009
10/19/2009 @ 7:00 PM
The Radio & Television News Association of Southern California Presents:
“MAKING OR BREAKING NEWS: THE STATE OF THE NEWS BUSINESS 2009”
Monday, October 19, 2009
Harvey Levin – Founder of TMZ
* Andy Ludlum – Program Director, KNX-1070 Newsradio and KFWB News/Talk 980
* Jose Rios – VP and News Director, KTTV-TV and KCOP-TV
* Kris Knutsen – Managing Editor, Local News Service
MODERATOR: Frank Mottek
* Monday, October 19, 2009
* Hors d’Oeuvres Reception: 6:00 – 7:00 PM
* Program: 7:00 – 8:30 PM
* Dessert Reception: 8:30 – 9:15 PM
WHERE: Lenart Auditorium, Fowler Museum at UCLA
ADMISSION COST: General Admission – $20, Students – $10, UCLA Students & Faculty – Free with Student or Faculty ID
PARKING: Convenient parking in Lot 4 on the UCLA campus.
Enter UCLA from Sunset Blvd. at Westwood Plaza.
Drive ahead to the Parking Information Booth in Lot 4.
PARKING COST: $10. Automated pay stations accept $1 and $5 bills and credit cards.
* Western States Petroleum Association
* City News Service
I’m a total sucker for behind-the-scenes City Hall machinations, and no where is there a better place to keep a pulse on city officialdom — and the gadflies that won’t stop — than the City Attorney’s Office.
That’s because it’s the conduit for public records requests. So you’ll have to put up with the occasional post here regurgitating some of the more weird, mundane and absurd records requests that I come across at City Hall (yes, we editors do get out).
Here’s a couple for today:
1) Phyllis Pollack of Northridge requested all permits and documents related to the cost of accommodating Michael Jackson’s funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Glendale.
The Jackson family was billed for the costs, but here’s what the tabs were according to the records: $142,770 for the city, and $4,278 for Glendale Unified.
2) Then there was this one, based on a request filed by Lila Ramirez, an active politico in Glendale (and mother of former Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos).
Salary payouts to the City Council in 2008 were as follows:
Ara Najarian: $41,542; Frank Quintero: $41,167; John Drayman: $41,167; Dave Weaver: $41,167; and Bob Yousefian: $41,063.
As of September 2009, the payouts were as followed:
John Drayman: $30,915; Laura Friedman: $16,819; Ara Najarian: $31,315; Frank Quintero: $31,330; and Dave Weaver: $30,915.
During the weekend, some unknown villain stole the news rack outside the News-Press and Leader offices. Odd, no? But you can’t keep a good newspaper down! I received the happy word this afternoon that the rack had been replaced. The circulation people, though, decided to put the paper inside front doors, instead of its former outdoor location (pictured).
Getting the rack pilfered offered me an interesting bit of insight into modern police work. I called the non-emergency number (duh) of the Glendale Police Department to report the theft. The woman who answered was unfailing polite — she didn’t even laugh when I told her my, ahem, crime. When the officer came to our offices to take the report, Veronica Rocha (our crime reporter) whispered he had been given an award for valor some years ago.
And then it struck me: Being a police officer certainly will have its moment, but, for the most part, you probably spend most of your time taking reports like mine — Medal of Valor winner or not.
I stepped outside a few minutes ago for lunch, leaving the warm confines of the Glendale News-Press/Burbank Leader world headquarters, and into the downtown Glendale gloom. Almost immediately, I felt something on my face and shoulders I had not felt for what seems like forever: rain. Not heavy rain, mind you. Truly, it was hardly more than a light dusting.
But with moderate to heavy rain in the forecast tomorrow and Wednesday — and perhaps as early as tonight — that sprinkle must be driving fear into the hearts of residents in La Cañada and the Crescenta Valley.
The whole situation is painfully ironic. Due to the Station fire, the burned areas are in real danger of becoming mudslide areas — a disaster that could damage or destroy more homes than the fire itself. But that is not ironic. What makes this ironic is the fact that the fire likely grew as large as it did because of the dense brush — dense brush caused by our 3-years-and-counting drought.
I very much hope the rains continue to be light, and any damaged caused by the mudflows is minimal. I furthermore hope authorities catch the person — or persons — responsible for this horrible fire. Good luck to everyone up in the Foothills.
I want to announce the winners of this month’s internal writing and photography contest. The contest drew from the staff writers and photographers from the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, and La Cañada Valley Sun. The three papers make up the members of Times Community News, North.
The contest features categories: news or feature, sports, photo, and online. And, to make things as fair as possible, I’ve asked my colleagues in Orange County to judge the entries.
The online category has two awardees, both based on the number of pageviews. The story of any type (news, feature, or sports) on any of the three papers’ websites that gets the most hits, or pageviews, wins the website award. In turn, the most popular blog post – also judged by pageviews – receives the blog award.
Congratulations to the September winners!
Most popular online story: Veronica Rocha, “Michael Jackson: Pop icon laid to rest” (Glendale News-Press, Sept. 4) 9,360 pageviews
Most popular blog post: Christopher Cadelago, “Woman jumps to her death at Burbank Holiday Inn” (Following the Leader, Sept. 13) 527 pageviews
Best news story: Melanie Hicken, “Minimizing utility risks” (Glendale News-Press, Sept. 26)
Judges’ comments: It’s pretty difficult to make water pipes interesting, but with sold reportage and crisp writing, Melanie seems to have done it. The hook of the story – that Glendale’s pipes are in better shape than L.A.’s – shows an awareness of current events and a skill for localizing a broad or regional story. The lead puts you right in the office of the engineer for Glendale Water & Power, so the story starts strong and ends stronger (“It’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge”), which is a telltale sign of good writing.
Best sport story: Gabriel Rizk, “The rise of an Olympian” (Glendale News-Press, Sept. 28)
Judges’ comments: The series is compelling and well written. As you read the stories, it becomes increasingly clear that a lot of reporting went into the project. Gabriel tells this story as an insider, which lends it authority. The details give the reader that “inside” feeling, as if you know Vanes Martirosyan and his family. The quotes – and there are multiple points of view – provide lively color and move the story along. For a long piece, it’s well structured and doesn’t lose its way.
Best Photo: Roger Wilson, “Inferno” (Glendale News-Press, Sept. 1)
Judges’ comments: This photo, showing the massive fire looming at the edges of city lights, is informative and impactful. It’s worth, as the cliché goes, a thousand words because of its perspective and framing. The reader gets a feel for the scope and magnitude of the fire, which seems to be poised to rush over the Verdugo Mountains into nearby neighborhoods.
Every once in a long while, things get so convoluted that they get turned inside out upside down and as a result, create a very frustrating mess.
It all started Oct. 7 when Glendale Water & Power ran a “wrap” advertisement on the News-Press giving the incorrect days for outdoor irrigation — Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday, a reporter wrote a news brief that was supposed to let residents know about the error, but it only made things worse. The news brief accidently swapped the meanings in the first and second graphs, which meant the mistake on the irrigation days was repeated — only this time, it was the paper’s fault.
So now, this morning, I find myself writing a correction for our error that was supposed to correct Glendale Water & Power’s goof, and meanwhile I’d imagine readers are starting to get pretty confused about now.
In Saturday’s edition, we’ll be running a correction — fully vetted by yours truly — with the correct irrigation days under the city’s water conservation ordinance.
In case you don’t want to wait until then, they are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. There are more on the regulations here.