If you've been following the self-destruction of the LA Times throughout the past year or so, you probably know that next week, the paper is killing off its "California" section, the paper's increasingly anemic attempt to convince readers it actually cares about local news.
As its name suggests, the California section really just combined a few local stories with state budget coverage from Sacramento and assorted briefs from flyover country. Years ago, the California section was called "Metro," and really did include lots of local news. At one point, in the glory days of the mid-to-late 1990s, the paper even had a bunch of so-called Times Community News bureaus spread throughout OC, so if you read the paper here, your local news was really, really local. And until this week, if you picked up the Times in OC, Dana Parsons was your local columnist, sort of the Steve Lopez of Santa Ana's Civic Center.
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Starting in March, what remains of local news coverage will be folded into the paper's front page section. No more room for the ruminations of Parsons, who'll switch to a staff writing position, although word is Lopez, the paper's star columnist up in LA--think best-selling book and movie deal-- will get to keep his column.
Over the years the Weekly has bemoaned Parsons for his wrongheaded carping about the moral culpability of the Haidl gang rape victim but also paid tribute to his more courageous coverage, like his expose of the shoddy police work and prosecutorial indifference that led to the wrongful arrest, conviction and imprisonment of an innocent kid named Arthur Carmona. As Weekly freelancer Bob Emmers wrote here, Parsons was the first person to pay any attention to the facts.
"Parsons then proceeded to do something astonishing--particularly for Orange County and its often lackluster journalism scene: he began his own investigation of the case. He read the entire 700-plus-page trial transcript. He attempted to interview witnesses, police officers, investigators, attorneys, experts in eyewitness testimony. And then he wrote a series of nine columns questioning Arthur's conviction."
Thanks in large measure to Parsons' refusal to stop writing about Carmona, the kid eventually saw his charges vacated. Sadly, Carmona perished in February 2008 during a late-night road rage incident in Santa Ana. We already miss Carmona and we'll miss Parsons too, even if we didn't always agree with his columns, but we're glad there will at least be more room for stories about Britney Spears' dad.