FishbowlLA was at the Downtown Public Library last night to check out author David M. Kennedy and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck talk about the ever-evolving problem of gang violence in Los Angeles. Father Greg Boyle, Celeste Fremon and most of the other social justice folks you’d expect to be there were in attendance. It was an interesting evening, as Kennedy–typically a vicious critic of police departments across the country–was highly laudatory of Chief Beck and his style of community policing. Kennedy told Angelenos they have no idea how rare it is for a police chief to take a human approach to policing (sometimes mocked as the “hug-a-thug” approach in cop circles) instead of a military one.
There were plenty more insights along those lines we could get into, but this is a media site, so we’ll get to the nut. When asked about the media’s coverage of gang violence in Los Angeles, Beck pronounced himself not a huge fan.
“The coverage here in Los Angeles is very shallow. No one spends very much time on these types of stories and the attention span is very small. These are complicated issues that don’t fit into a small news article or into a 30-second spot on Fox News.”
Gotta be honest. Chief Beck is pretty spot on on this one. The only beat in LA that gets robust coverage is the entertainment industry. Coverage of social justice, crime, and general civic affairs needs a serious kick in the ass. Of course it would help if the Tribune Company stopped laying off half the LA Times to pay for its bonuses. But Los Angeles has never had the kind of robust media culture that New York or Boston has. The Times has a limited news hole, the LA Weekly has shrunk to a third of its size from five years ago and the Daily News doesn’t really care what happens outside City Hall and the Valley.
In the interest of self-serving narcissism, however, we would like to refer Chief Beck to this Fishie’s LA Justice Report story from last year about the city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development program. Sometimes the info is out there. But that doesn’t mean that anyone is reading it.