by RIP RENSE
(July 16, 2003)
I've never cared for "interpretive newswriting,"
which usually finds the reporter's ego getting in the way of his eye, with unapologetic spin.
Interpretive newswriting? An oxymoron.
Alan Casden? Just plain moron.
Well, I take that back. Casden is a smart guy,
but his thinking is infected by a common enough ailment: piggishness. Casden has bid $400
million for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What does this have to do with interpretive newswriting?
Vincent is the L.A. Times reporter responsible for a July
11 page one piece about how Casden would raze Dodger Stadium if he buys the team, and
his article was puffier than Marlon Brando. To wit,
here's the lead ("lede," if you prefer):
If multimillionaire apartment developer
Alan Casden has his way, he'll do more than become the new owner of the Los Angeles
Dodgers; he'll change the face of downtown Los Angeles in the process.
Wow! For a newswriter, Vincent
turns out to be one hell of a publicist. Let's look closely at his dusty cliché:
"change the face of downtown." Buried under all the silt is the actual news:
Casden will tear down a beloved, hallowed, historic institution: Dodger Stadium. Isn't
that the story? Isn't that the lead? Bye-bye House of Drysdale/ Koufax/ Scully/ Wills/ Cey/ Sutton/Gibson etc.?
Vincent swings and misses!
|Look, L.A. buries itself alive,
routinely. There are plenty of historic L.A. landmarks---and
most can be found exclusively in nice coffee table books.
Touchstones in this town are mini-malls more than ten years
old, and funny looking car washes. If you live here, you
sort of get used to it after a while, the way Joan Rivers
got used to facelifts.
Paragraph two talks of "moving
the Dodgers from their home field" (their "home field?"---uh, did he forget
the name?), but it is not until paragraph three that we finally get the R-word:
"Casden contended that by razing Dodger Stadium and relocating the team a
few miles down the 110 Freeway, he could offer a markedly better experience for fans---and
at the same time provide thousands of new housing units in Chavez Ravine."
Tell me that doesn't read like PR,
and I'll tell you that the Dodgers are a shoo-in for the pennant.
Stadium," Vincent writes (note he does not say "tearing down")
"and building a mix of high-end, mid-range, and affordable housing on the 300-acre
hilltop where the ballpark now stands would overshadow anything else (Casden has)
done." Wow again! Are we supposed to cheer? How is it that this country seems to root
for rich guys to get richer?
A "mix of high-end, mid-range,
and affordable housing" means that Casden is salivating more than Gaylord Perry at
the prospect of building a lavish, exclusive community on Chavez Ravine property valued at
$1 million per acre. "Mid-range and affordable" refers to the minimal, ugly,
boxy apartments and condos he would have to throw in, to get away with packing in as many
Turkish mausoleums---er, luxury homes---as possible. Rents would be as high as a Kirk Gibson pop-up,
condos would be a steal at a million bucks.
"If successful," writes
Vincent, sounding as if he is first in line for one of the Turkish mausoleums, "Casden could
help spur the renaissance of downtown L.A. while giving Chavez Ravine a chance to capture
something of its pre-1950s character: a collection of homes surrounded by the green of
on the outskirts of
Chavez Ravine in 1953. I've seen pictures, and I've heard it described by my older brothers. This was a
homey, folksy, friendly neighborhood of charming little bungalows occupied by a largely
Latino populace of hard-working lower and middle-income working stiffs..
Casden sure ain't gonna revive that
Nope---he's looking to install a
Beverly Hills, downtown---or more accurately, a "Palazzo," the hideous, luxury
City Walk-like development he built next to Park La Brea. Forget about homey, Homies.
Casden's downtown would be uptown. Chavez Ravine? Try Chavez Heights.
Yet Times man Vincent blows more hot air than Tommy Lasorda, at one point announcing that his is a "rare interview" with Casden.
Well, sure. What reason was there to ever profile this robberbaron before? De-Dodgerizing
Chavez Ravine, the "reporter" effuses, "amounts to Casden making "a $1
billion commitment to this city."
Hey, let's be honest: Casden's
proposal amounts to Casden making a ton of dough, playing baseball baron, and plucking out
one of L.A.'s eyeballs.
Vincent's article does not
mention anything about agony over the loss of Dodger Stadium. It does not quote a
single fan lamenting the possible passing of the place. It does not quote Vin Scully,
Lasorda, Peter O' Malley, Koufax, Rick Monday, Davey Lopes, or a bat boy. Not even
some cynical dunce fan repeating that disgusting cliche, "Well, baseball's a
The closest Vincent comes
to noting any protest is
a quote from a Chavez Ravine resident (buried 19 paragraphs in) who allows mildly that she
is "not real hot on the idea" of losing the stadium. Interpretive newswriting at
its finest! Roger, you're a Los Angeles dodger (small "d")! You'd think no one
will even notice when they dynamite the Reserved section.
Look, L.A. buries itself alive,
routinely. There are plenty of historic L.A. landmarks---and most can be found exclusively
in nice coffee table books. Touchstones in this town are mini-malls more than ten years
old, and funny looking car washes. If you live here, you sort of get used to it after a
while, the way Joan Rivers got used to facelifts. But when a chunk of the city loved by
millions over 42 years is threatened, this is the story, Roger Vincent---not a rich man's
ambition! Journalism 101 should have taught you that. You booted this ball. E-V.
Yet the flak, er, shill,
er---reporter---either doesn't realize it, or is under orders from Times management, as he
romanticizes this rich man with talk of his "brusque, no-nonsense
demeanor," how he's "listed on the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans with an
estimated net worth of $800 million," how he "has developed or acquired more
than 90,000 apartments in a career that dates to the 1970s." Wow! No wonder the
streets are parking lots by three in the afternoon.
I mean, you can't buy this kind of
writing in a press release---well, actually, you can, and it's a lot cheaper than paying a
The spookiest part of the article
was Vincent blithely reporting Casden's almost supernaturally weird rationale for
flattening the House of Vinny: bringing a stadium downtown. Um. . .where in hell does he
think Dodger Stadium is? Okay, well, he wants to build a new stadium right smack
downtown---over near Staples Center. Why? Get this: to improve access.
I welcome any physicists or yogis
who can explain how putting a baseball stadium approximately two miles from Dodger
Stadium---right near the confluence of the Harbor and Santa Monica Freeways, deep in the
entrails of traffic-constipated downtown---is going to improve access.
Okay, okay, I admit that
Casden gives other reasons for wanting the Dodgers, which Vincent pantingly lists: Dodger Dogs are no
good (I kid you not, people), noise and litter left around the ballpark (guess this
wouldn't happen elsewhere), lack of cup holders (I kid you not again), and "lousy
I see. So a new stadium is
needed in order to improve ballpark cuisine. To quote Vinny, Casden is "back, back,
a-wayyyy back---he's gone!"
Well, you get the drift of this
rant. I'll leave off by noting Vincent's repeated effort to paint Casden as just a loving,
loyal Dodger fan who's been going to the stadium since it opened, and once saw Koufax
pitch a no-hitter. Yup, here's exactly how loving and loyal and sentimental this would-be
Dodger owner is:
"They knock down stadiums all
the time," Casden said. "Dodger Stadium is not an antique. It's not Frank Lloyd
No. It's just a lovely,
symmetrical, understated ballpark that looks gorgeous in the buttery late afternoon
sunlight of pastoral Chavez Ravine. In downtown L.A..
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