Dover Bitch

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Balancing competing agendas

Not a big surprise, but always refreshing to hear it from an insider... LAist Interview: Daniel Hernandez:

Why did you move from the Los Angeles Times to the LA Weekly? How are the jobs similar and different?

I owe The Times lots. They taught me so much. They gave me freedom and room to work, and pushed me to push myself. Everyday the people there amazed me, their talent and drive. But The Times has a very clear, very rigid tradition on how to report the news.

Shortly after I got there, I started having these long, tortured thought sessions with myself about my participation in the MSM. I saw how the people and places the paper chose to cover were automatically political decisions because for every thing you chose to cover there is something you chose to not cover. I started realizing that the mainstream style on reporting the news that most papers employ is not really concerned with depicting the truth, but concerned primarily with balancing lots of competing agendas and offending the least amount of interests as possible.

I saw how so much was looked at from certain assumptions and subtexts, and a very narrow cultural view. When I raised questions about such things, I was told we were writing for a "mainstream reader," which I quickly figured out is basically a euphemism for a middle-aged, middle-class white registered Democrat homeowner in the Valley. From where I stand today, I had very little in common with this "mainstream reader" and I didn't care to be in this person's service. I wanted to talk across to people, not up or down to people. I had to get out. So I thought, why not experiment? Try different forms? Laurie Ochoa and the editors at the LA Weekly said, 'Go ahead, abandon rote objectivity and embrace the subjective lens through which we all see the world—Just report it all out.' It was ON.

The jobs are basically the same: go out there, report the story, think about it a lot, write, turn it in, get edited, learn from it, and start all over. It's been a real challenge. The Weekly is more challenging. At The Times I was just challenging the institutional and cultural barriers of an ultimately very conservative place. That was exhausting, and not very fulfilling. At the Weekly, there's all this freedom, and that means you have to be more careful and more thoughtful.

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