Jewish World Review April 26, 2002 / 14 Iyar, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Media Bias -- Los Angeles Style | Last Sunday I attended the Israel Independence Day Festival held at a large beautiful park in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. By all estimates more than 60,000 people attended the festival. There were booths, food, music, rides for the kids, guest speakers, and a large show of patriotism (both American and Israeli) all over the place. American flags hung side by side with Israeli flags. It was a great family event not unlike a big Fourth of July picnic.

Popular KABC talk show host and author Larry Elder (who also happens to be a fellow JWR columnist) emceed the main stage of prominent speakers. The speakers included California Governor Gray Davis; his opponent in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Bill Simon; former ambassador and presidential candidate Alan Keys; U.S. Rep. Howard Berman; and Israeli Consul General Yuval Rotem; among many others.

The event was attended by various news organizations. It was covered by AP, UPI, most of the local television stations, and cable news outlets CNN and Fox News. The next day, the Daily News, a newspaper much smaller and less prestigious than its competitor, the Los Angeles Times, carried a front page story including several photos of the festival.

The Los Angeles Times reported nothing of the event. Nowhere in the paper. Not one word. Zilch. Nada. Zip. It's as if the thing never took place. But I know it took place. I was there. So were tens of thousands of others. Why wasn't it covered in the Times? Was it an oversight? Absent-mindedness? Did the reporter get stuck in heavy traffic? Forget to adjust the clocks for daylight savings time? What?

How does it happen that what was arguably the biggest Los Angeles event of the week-end was completely ignored by the city's preeminent newspaper?

How does it happen that the governor of California and his opponent, in an election year, appear on the same stage to speak to a crowd of over 60,000 people, and the Los Angeles Times doesn't even report it?

How does it happen that the Southern California Jewish community holds a major rally of support for Israel -- at a time when Israel is fighting for its very existence against a hateful Arab enemy in a world that seems to be getting increasingly more anti-Semitic all the time -- and the Los Angeles Times doesn't even send a reporter out there to check it out?

The local L.A. radio talk shows have been asking these very questions all week. Some shows have even gone to the trouble of calling the Times to ask why they didn't cover the festival. The calls resulted in being put on hold, then getting ping-ponged from desk to desk, and finally transferred to a "customer service" recorded message. The paper is ducking the issue, to say the least.

It is important to note that less than two weeks ago many Jewish congregations and community groups held a one day boycott of the Los Angeles Times to protest what they perceived to be biased reporting by the paper in favor of the Palestinians. The action gained national attention which caused the Times to issue a short statement in which they basically denied the charge that their Middle East reporting is one-sided.

Today (the Wednesday following the Israel Independence Day Festival) the front page of the Los Angeles Times Food section features ... can you guess what kind of food? Well, which ethnic food do you think would rub the most salt into the wound of the Jewish community, especially at this hyper-sensitive time? If you guessed Arabian cuisine, you are 100% right. Yessiree.

The headline in large type across the front page reads, "Tabbouleh Town." The big story in the food section this week is the wonderful Arabian foods that can be found by "strolling through the restaurants, shops and cafes of Anaheim's bustling Little Arabia." And this is not the first time that the Times food section has promoted Arabian food in recent months.

The tone of this particular article is, if it's Arab, its great. Take smoking for example. Smoking in L.A. restaurants has been, for quite sometime, a thing that is socially unacceptable, politically incorrect and universally despised by the enlightened culturally elite of society -- the Times being among the most enlightened and elite of the enlightened elite.

Tobacco companies in general are routinely demonized and beaten up by media such as the Times. Tobacco is their favorite villain. But lo and behold -- suddenly in the context of the "Arabian community" all that has changed! The writer speaks lovingly of "tombak, the special aromatic tobacco for smoking in a water pipe."

Later in the piece a particular cafe is mentioned where, "customers mostly seem to be making use of the water pipes the management provides -- a perfumed wave of tobacco smoke rolls right out its door." When was the last time you read the words "perfumed wave of tobacco smoke" in anything other any a cigarette advertisement? Actually, they haven't even said those things in cigarette ads for fifty years.

Whether it's an article in the Food section or California Living section or the main section, if it's an Arab piece, it seems the Times is always able to put a positive spin on it. My wife and I have been aware of a subtle pro-Arab, anti-Israel slant in the Times for quite a number of years. But now things have definitely changed. The subtlety is gone.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby