UC Irvine Professor and sometimes-Weekly contributor, sometimes-Weekly subject Jon Wiener has a piece in next month's Nation magazine documenting the "troubles" at our big sister up the 5-to-the-101 Freeway, LA Weekly. But Wiener also devotes a couple of paragraphs to the OC Weekly's own turbulent year.
Needless to say, we don't agree with Wiener's take, as the letter submitted to The Nation below shows:
I'd like to start by saying gracias to Jon Wiener for the kind words he said about my column. That said, many of the overarching conclusions his July 16 article reached about Village Voice Media (VVM) and its subsequent meaning for my employer, OC Weekly, are ludicrous.
Wiener begins by claiming that the new owners of VVM—-the barbarians from Phoenix previously known as the New Times--strip papers of a commitment to its respective communities and care only about profits. His proof? The fact that LA Weekly (and the OC Weekly, for that matter) no longer prints endorsements. I am personally for newspaper endorsement, but refusing to print them doesn't translate into a derelection of duty to a paper's readers. Many lively independent papers and blogs also don't offer endorsements; does this mean they're also captains of avarice as Wiener says of LA Weekly? Not only that, but Wiener's thesis clashes with his own description of VVM’s owners as focusing on hyper-local stories targeting the elite. Tell me, Jon: how is hyper-local coverage not a civic service, especially at a time when dailies are more interested in layoffs, consolidations, and the shaved cooters of movie vixens?
More laughable, however, is Jon's assertion that the change in ownership has skewed the coverage of VVM's new papers to the right. I can’t speak for LA Weekly, as I’m not privy to their inner politics, but I haven’t noticed any discernable tilt in their coverage as a reader. Sure, they might not report on international affairs as much, but again: lack of coverage doesn’t necessarily constitute a change in ideology.
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Wiener’s analysis implicitly dings the OC Weekly, so let’s go to the tape: In June alone, OC Weekly writers published articles that trashed anti-immigrant wackjob Tom Tancredo, cast a critical eye on media accounts of imprisoned Vietnam War relic Vang Pao, exposed white supremacists and other criminals who prey on Orange County's defenseless, profiled a man who breaks up international slave rings, praised Vietnam's Communist president, and called for legalizing our nation's illegal immigrants. Hardly the stuff of neocons, ¿qué no? Sure, there was little to no Bush-bashing, but that's what The Nation is for.
Finally, I'm curious as to why Wiener didn't talk to the half-dozen staffers that remained at the OC Weekly instead of joining founding editor Will Swaim at his new paper--especially to the news staff that Wiener praised, all of whom stayed. If he did, Wiener would've found folks who believe that the editorial ideals that made the OC Weekly such an important part of Orange County for the better part of a decade remain safely in place. We oldtimers from the ancient régime know a mediocre newspaper chain when we see it, and the new Village Voice Media frankly isn't one.
Gustavo Arellano Staff Writer, OC Weekly Santa Ana, California
Awright, readers: agree? Disagree? Leave comments!