(Page 3 of 5)
reason: I don’t know Baltimore, but I know a lot of people at the Los Angeles Times. And it would be hard to argue it’s any worse than it was in 1995, or 1955.
Simon: I don’t know what to say to you. You’re bringing things that are not rooted in empiricism. You have some emotional disconnect.
reason: No, I’m just saying that the Los Angeles Times has always been first and foremost a booster for the idea of Los Angeles.
Simon: You’re bringing some sort of weird ideology into it.
reason: What are you doing?
Simon: I’m bringing the amount of ground covered. When it’s healthy and you have enough to do and you have enough people to do it, the agenda is to cover the ground and to cover it smarter and to find out what really the fuck is going on.
Like anything worth trying and anything worth doing, you fail as much as you succeed. But I never had anybody say to me, “We’re doing this, and we think this is good or we think this is bad.” They basically just planted me on the beat. And they planted five of us on the crime beat. There was a court reporter every day that you could work with. There were three police reporters at any given moment. There were general assignment reporters that could be thrown into law enforcement issues.
And we covered more ground. There’s one guy left. There’s one guy. He’s working his ass off. That’s true at The Baltimore Sun. That’s true at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That’s true at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. That’s true at the Los Angeles Times.
reason: What I’m saying is that you might have more people covering stuff, but you did not have a moment where the Los Angeles Times was interrogating the power structure in Los Angeles, even when it had twice as many reporters. Now, you can read many sources coming out of Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles Times. I think probably city hall and the power structure are more aptly covered than they were under a traditional model.
Simon: I couldn’t disagree more. And I can only cite what’s going on in Baltimore. There’s more commentary. There’s more debate. There’s more discussion. The Internet is a great democratization tool—
reason: I would argue there is also more firsthand reporting, observational reporting.
Simon: I don’t know what to tell you. It’s not happening here in the city in which you are sitting. It’s not happening in New Orleans. It’s not happening in any city where mainstream media has retrenched. It is not happening.
reason: In a recent interview you did with Bill Moyers you said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I don’t believe in institutions anymore; I believe in individuals.” Have you boxed yourself in? If you don’t believe in institutions then what? How do individuals change them?
Simon: I’m a grownup. And this is where I get exhausted with the notion that there has been corruption there so let’s throw up our hands and declare there’s too much government.
What is your freaking alternative? There’s never going to be permanent institutional stasis. Everything will corrode. Everything will rust. Everything will need to be replaced. Everything will need to be challenged and continually policed. Somebody much wiser than me—my father—used to say at every single Passover Seder, “Freedom can never be entirely won, but it can be lost.” And the way in which you lose it is not by acknowledging the inevitability of communal action and institutional necessity. But it’s by walking away from our collective ownership and demand on the performance of those institutions.