James Rainey vs Jill Stewart

James Rainey’s column today in the LAT ends like this:

I don’t see the Weekly regaining its equilibrium as long as Stewart remains in charge of the news section. It’s likely that a new top editor will be brought in from outside.

But no one I talked to expects the bombastic Ms. Stewart to be going anywhere any time soon.

So Jill Stewart sent us this letter which we have printed in full:

Hi there,

I wanted to tell my colleagues and friends in journalism and blogging that James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times did not contact me for his take-down attempt column about me today, published during the very same week in which news-side stories I assigned and edited blew the Times out of the water at the Los Angeles Press Club awards. These awards, announced five days ago, were judged entirely by journalists in other major cities around the nation to avoid local favoritism. And then yesterday, a young reporter who won a major award for a piece that I assigned and edited beat The New York Times and was in Washington, D.C. collecting his award.

It’s hard to imagine that James wrote this attack without being bothered by a piece we at the Weekly wrote about James and his frequent use of blind sources while covering his bosses. I am the editor who assigned and edited the piece about James Rainey by Luke Y. Thompson. Luke’s report on Jim was a classic Weekly story, assigned and edited by me, tough but factual, and filled with excellent sourcing.

I am very sad to see Jim launch a wrong-headed attack on me without
disclosing that I assigned and edited a story critical of him in 2007. Our story about Jim was, in fact, far more extensively reported and much better sourced than his about me. You can see for yourself, in the link at the end of my note. In today’s tricky journalism world, it was basic Journo 101 to disclose.

Jim did contact some of the paper’s freelance writers over the past week or two, and asked them to “tell me what it’s really like to work with Jill Stewart.” I know because they alerted me to Jim’s upcoming piece. Some tell me that when they insisted on speaking on the record, Jim was not very interested in the positive things they had to say. He did, however, manage to use an off-the-record quote that fit his unfortunate view, shared by some old guard reporters in Los Angeles: that my aggressive form of journalism is not good for people.

Judges of media competitions around the country disagree. I disagree. Many disagree. Below are my recent blog posts about the Weekly hammering the LA Times and getting recognized for our great news reporting and writing when compared against the nation’s biggest papers in media competitions.

Some of us at the Weekly were worried about winning local awards this year because we submitted fewer articles to the Press Club competition, as did a lot of papers who trimmed costs. We needn’t have worried. With my stunning but small staff of news reporters including Christine Pelisek and Patrick
Range McDonald, and my terrific news freelancers including Tibby Rothman,
Daniel Heimpel, Max Taves, Paul Teetor, David Ferrell, Beth Barrett and several others, we’ll just have to keep disappointing Jim Rainey and the LA Times.

– Jill

Our hammering of the LA Times locally:

Beating NYT for biomedical news coverage:

Christine Pelisek’s near-win at IRE for “Grim Sleeper”: (In a way, although it is a second place, it’s our biggest win because this contest is considered by many to be above a Pulitzer. The team who beat Christine was comprised of 14 reporters in ten nations. The judges said that team managed to beat our one reporter — barely.)

Our piece on James Rainey:

Previously on FBLA: Editor-In-Chief Laurie Ochoa Leaving LA Weekly