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The New York Times Ran A Front-Page Story About LA And People Are Pissed

"I've read stupid LA takes from NYT before but man does this one beat out Peas in Guacamole."

Originally posted on
Updated on

The story ran on the New York Times' front page Wednesday, right below its coverage of the first State of the Union by President (and lifelong New Yorker) Donald J. Trump.

The article argues that recent turmoil at the Los Angeles Times — which has recently seen turnover of its top leadership, a successful unionization effort, and an increasingly tense newsroom environment — is "symptomatic" of the city's "absence of strong institutions to bind it together."

The piece explores multiple reasons for this larger "problem," pointing to everything from geography, to economics, to having too many actors living in town. The overall effect is that Los Angeles comes across as having a fundamentally weak civic identity, especially compared to other cities.

The story opens with the recent tensions at the Los Angeles Times — a legitimate subject of a news article — but then quickly moves on to make a much broader argument about the city.

According to the New York Times, Los Angeles sucks.

Some people, like employees of the New York Times, LOVED the take!

This is a remarkably thoughtful and interesting article—not just about a newspaper but about what makes cities work… https://t.co/GrGUHXvwqy

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But others wondered why the troubles at the LA Times were somehow an indictment of the city of 4 million people.

What's happening at the LA Times is a train wreck and a tragedy and framing it as "well, what do you expect when LA… https://t.co/bm2XetJtqJ

There is a great story to be done about the state of local media in LA. This, however, reads like a NY editor’s att… https://t.co/O2QbsVggdR

Amid the collective head-scratching, some noticed there were basic factual errors in the story.

Almost forgot: George Lucas's museum is going in Exposition Park. Not downtown. The L.A. Times has a handy mapping… https://t.co/4Uf3VcPX5m

George Lucas's upcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is being developed in a neighborhood called Exposition Park, which is near the University of Southern California. That's near Downtown LA, but it is, in fact, a different neighborhood.

It also turns out that the ranking the Times used to prove LA has a "lack of philanthropy" doesn't actually show that at all.

That New York Times story on Los Angeles gets a key statistic on charitable giving wrong.

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As Rolling Stone contributor Tim Dickinson noted, the article refers to Charity Navigator, which rates the practices and financial health of various philanthropic organizations. In 2017, the group scored various cities, awarding Los Angeles the 14th spot on the list for the aggregate health of its charities.

But Sara Nason, a spokesperson for Charity Navigator, told BuzzFeed News that the scores have nothing to do with how much money people are giving away in cities.

"It’s really looking at the practices of the charities and the operations of the charities as opposed to any specific dollars they raised," Nason said.

She added that the New York Times did not reach out to the group for its story.

The Charity Navigator scores — which again, measure the health of philanthropic organizations, not the amount of philanthropy — actually rank LA...wait for it...higher than New York.

Ugh, another thing that's now driving me nuts. Charity Navigator ranked L.A. 14th for charitable giving. So I look… https://t.co/Fnq83D6kNb


Some noted that the piece seemed to cherry-pick information to suit its purposes.

This article mentions 3 Fortune 500s in the city of Los Angeles. That's incorrect in spirit: There are 13 in greate… https://t.co/o7cObJNwNx

The article states Los Angeles is actually a sprawling metropolis encompassing several communities, but later when focusing on the economy and the number of Fortune 500 companies located in the region, it limits the scope to only the city of LA. That supports the thesis of the piece, but ignores the article's own characterization of what "is" LA, and obfuscates the fact that there are actually more Fortune 500 companies in the Los Angeles area.

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In fairness though, New York City has had tremendous success at things like fixing its subway system.*

Fix your damn subway, New York. https://t.co/xzZk2C2UN7

*The NYC subway is a disaster.

Many readers noted that the piece was the latest in a time-honored and illustrious genre, pioneered by the Times, about adventures in the far-flung US provinces.

This reminds me of the time in 2014 when the NYT proclaimed that DC suddenly had restaurants in residential neighbo… https://t.co/bBBbBUITbX

Past entries include many other stories about Los Angeles and an entire subgenre about New York City's own outer boroughs.

One person compared the wisdom in the piece to the Times' recommendation that you should put peas in guacamole.

I've read stupid LA takes from NYT before but man does this one beat out Peas in Guacamole. "For all its successes… https://t.co/r8tucumZh8

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But more than anything, tons of people were just really, really not into the Times' take.

some sweaty poorly reported LA-bashing from the NYT here. keep complaining about those subways, you bland assholes https://t.co/hUFtavhPHj

Also, can we talk about how the only Latino you quoted was Villaraigosa? L.A.’s population is mostly Latino. I gues… https://t.co/Q4eAbClF4N

If LA wrote about NYC with a mere fraction of the contempt that NYC writes about LA, they'd be holding seances for… https://t.co/w3FOMScaaG

What New Yorkers think of Los Angeles. https://t.co/WAWMIpTCFd

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Hey New York...Go Fuck Yourselves. https://t.co/E2suEZ26jY

Finally, some lamented the fact that there is a story to tell about media troubles in Southern California — LA Weekly recently purged its staff and the local news site LAist shut down — but the New York Times piece neglected the issue.

In the light of morning, my thoughts more cogently organized.

"We're proud of this piece, which drew on interviews with numerous Angelenos, the experience of our longtime bureau chief, Adam Nagourney and observations of Tim Arango, our new Los Angeles correspondent," said national editor Marc Lacey. "There is no doubt that it has provoked a spirited debate, prompting both praise and criticism."

Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jim Dalrymple II at jim.dalrymple@buzzfeed.com.

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