A Disservice To LA Times Readers, History

Screengrab from LA Times.com

Staffwriter Hector Becerra spends all of the front page article in today’s Los Angeles Times and plenty more after the jump building the implication that the Dodgers were the primary reason for the Chavez Ravine disgrace, including this patently disingenuous paragraph:

“But the removal of more than 1,000 mostly Mexican-American families from Chavez Ravine to make way for the stadium is a dark note in LA’s history.”

What a surprisingly reprehensible and negligent generalization that is.

I was relieved when Becerra eventually explained that the public housing debacle by the city’s leadership years before Los Angeles was even a gleam in Walter O’Malley’s eye was the true catalyst for the evictions. And he finally contradicts his previous fallacy by mentioning there were only a few families remaining — not “more than 1,000” — in 1959.

But it is shameful and irresponsible that Becerra and his editors failed to reference those previous events higher up in the article and instead of qualification opted for false simplification in the form of an inaccurate chronological order to the dreadful sequence of events that destroyed the entire community, not just the handful of brave families who fought eviction to that bitter end.

I shall read any words appearing under Becerra’s byline now with a far more skeptical eye.

Update after the jump.

UPDATE (1:03 p.m.): To what was essentially the same complaint sent to his inbox, Hector Becerra cordially replied agreeing that I raised a legitimate issue with the paragraph I cited and regretting it was not as precise as it could have been. As to mentioning the previous history of the Chavez Ravine tragedy higher up in the story, Becerra said he didn’t consider it necessary in part because he considers readers and people in general aware of the public housing angle.

For me personally as an armchair student of history, or at least a native who tries to learn about the city’s past, I don’t fit Becerra’s generous mold of aware reader/citizen.  I’m ashamed to say that it was only about seven years ago after reading Mike Davis’ “City of Quartz” and coincidentally hearing Ry Cooder’s “Chavez Ravine” album that I came to finally learn the opposite of my long-held belief: that it wasn’t the Dodgers that destroyed Chavez Ravine. They just hammered the final in a long line of coffin nails into the community.

4 thoughts on “A Disservice To LA Times Readers, History”

  1. I was here in the summer of ’62 and a friend (from SF) that moved with me met people from Chavez Ravine (who had to move) and even then I didn’t hear the whole story–and I’m interested in history.
    My take on the LAT story is: Dodgers: Big News City of LA: Not big news.
    Too bad, how can the people who care enough to actually follow the issues and vote be informed if the LAT can’t provide the background to what’s happening now.
    Dieu remercie for bloggers such as yourself

  2. Thanks, Will. This is an important local history lesson that to many of us, including me, don’t fully know. In fact, I didn’t know a thing about it until reading James Ellroy’s novel White Jazz, and that part of the story takes place around 1958, so it was also the Part Deux – Dodgers episode that seems repeatedly to capture the most attention.

  3. I was fortunate enough to see Culture Clash’s “Chavez Ravine” a few years back, which lays out the saga in a satirically humorous, yet detailed and powerfully heartfelt manner.

    And for further illumination, check out Frank Wilkinson’s role in all of this.

  4. Thanks for the history lesson and correction to the LA Times article. I find the history of this city fascinating and enjoy reading ACCURATE accounts, thanks for your due diligence.

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