LA Weekly Breaks Real Story of Labor Boss’s Death: Long-time Editor Disgusted


David Zahniser has a red-hot story in the LA Weekly regarding the death of labor leader Miguel Contreras. Contreras, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, died in May, 2005 in a botanica on Florence Ave, of a heart attack. The LAPD raided the place on a prostitution sting later that year.

One official story was that Contreras died in his car, after getting a card reading at the store-front–other stories had him dying in the hospital.

Kevin Roderick at LA Observed has the reaction of former Weekly editor Harold Meyerson, who was a friend of Contreras, and an advocate for keeping the legend alive, rather than running the story.

Meyerson sent off a late-night email to the staff, now incorporated into his column:

The Weekly is now its own sub-genre of newspaper: the guilty-conscience tabloid. A real tabloid would have headlined this week’s cover piece, “Labor Boss Croaks in Hooker’s Arms!” A non-tabloid wouldn’t have run the piece, and certainly not on the cover. A guilty-conscience tabloid runs the folk art that Miguel inspired at the time of his death, and seeks to justify running the piece by equating it with the biographies on Martin Luther King’s private life. But there’s a crucial difference.

Meyerson would like to blame New Times and Mike Lacey for this “tabloid” mentality, but there’s no clear proof. Zahniser did a lot of hard digging, found that the true story had been squashed, and wrote it up. If Meyerson can’t see the importance of that, maybe his retirement was long over-due.