Legal Law

Shush! L.A. Times Editor Asks “Departees” Not to Criticize California on Their Way Out – JONATHAN TURLEY

In an editorial fit for The Onion or the Babylon Bee, Los Angeles Times’ letters editor Paul Thornton wrote a column this week entitled “If you want to leave, fine. But don’t insult California on the way out.” The column acknowledges an exodus from the state, but sees the problem as former Californians sharing their experiences about what drove them from the Golden State. It is like Captain William Bligh asking the mutinous crew of the Bounty for a reference as they head for the lifeboats.

Thornton wrote that “more than 800,000 Californians moved away in 2022, and many thousands more left last year. Often, the departees, cash in hand from the sale of their $1-million bungalows, feel the need to express disdain for their home state, and even some anger too.”

He then begs them to keep mum about their reasons for leaving the state, which commonly range from rising crime to high taxes to runaway spending. Instead, he portrays those leaving as intolerant bigots for criticizing the “California ways”:

“And which ways would those be? Perhaps it’s our embrace of LGBTQ+ Californians. Or it’s our liberal politics, with the state Republican Party shrunk to irrelevance after its vicious attempt in 1994 to marginalize immigrants with Proposition 187.”

The reference to Proposition 187 was interesting since it passed with roughly 60 percent of the vote in the blue state to deny social services to illegal migrants.  It was blocked by the courts, not the voters, including many democrats. Recently, California added free healthcare to other benefits for undocumented migrants.

The week that Thornton wrote his plea for people to keep quiet about conditions in California, the staff of the LA Times conducted a strike to oppose massive layoffs due to declining readership and profits of the newspaper. Like other newspapers such as the Washington Post (which lost $100 million last year), the editors and reporters appear willing to consider any option other than returning to objective reporting.

We previously discussed the release of the results of interviews with over 75 media leaders by former executive editor for The Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr. and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward. They concluded that objectivity is now considered reactionary and even harmful. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief at the San Francisco Chronicle said it plainly: “Objectivity has got to go.”

Downie recounted how news leaders today

“believe that pursuing objectivity can lead to false balance or misleading “bothsidesism” in covering stories about race, the treatment of women, LGBTQ+ rights, income inequality, climate change and many other subjects. And, in today’s diversifying newsrooms, they feel it negates many of their own identities, life experiences and cultural contexts, keeping them from pursuing truth in their work.”

Now, objectivity is virtually synonymous with prejudice. Kathleen Carroll, former executive editor at the Associated Press declared “It’s objective by whose standard? … That standard seems to be White, educated, and fairly wealthy.”

The L.A. Times has long been known for such advocacy journalism. As readership and revenue declined, it has gone through various owners and restructurings. However, it is still effectively writing off half of the population with its advocacy reporting. That is why it is so telling that an editor’s solution to the state’s problems are the same: simply do not report the problems. It will have the same success as framing the news in the newspaper.

Thornton, however, pledges that they will stay the course  — just as his paper has done:

“We have 39 million people, Hollywood and Shohei Ohtani. This state is a haven for reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights, but income disparity and the housing crunch are critical problems we have to fix for progressive ideals to match the reality on the ground.”

One fix again being discussed is a wealth tax, which will likely expedite the exodus of those trash talking former residents. They are also planning to tap their emergency reserves as legislators continue massive spending plans.

There is a pathetic element to the column’s plea. High earners are leaving the state as many undocumented migrants continue to arrive. Thornton admits that “the departees, cash in hand from the sale of their $1-million bungalows, feel the need to express disdain for their home state, and even some anger too.”  He is hoping that these “departees” simply say that they loved the state that they just left at considerable cost and inconvenience. Alternatively, they could just say “I can’t talk about it” to, as Thornton suggests, “extend some goodwill to those of us who remain?”

I happen to love California. I would go there to spend summers with my grandparents in Cherry Valley. I also used to write regularly for the LA Times. I am also an avid hiker who loves the wonderful parks in the state. I have been crushed by watching the decline of both the state and the paper. The way to send “goodwill” to those who remain is to tell the truth about the state and the disastrous course that it is on.

We should not have to wait for LA Times or the state to collapse to discuss these problems. Both are a huge part of our nation and our history. So here is an idea for the LA Times. Instead of asking “departees” to stay silent, why not start to listen to them?

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