Only In LA: Oh my God! They insulted George Lucas!

WHAT COULD possibly be wrong with a big-city newspaper giving ample coverage to the opening of a major new sports and entertainment complex in the centre of town? Not much, one would have thought.

OK, the Los Angeles Times might have got a little carried away a few weeks ago when it chose to devote the whole of its Sunday magazine supplement to the brand new Staples Center, enthusing over its design, its new hockey and basketball arenas, and its potential for reviving downtown. But this, in itself, was nothing too unusual and it barely raised a murmur at the time.

That, though, was before a few awkward truths began to emerge. Like the fact that the LA Times' parent company is a shareholder in the Staples Center. Or the fact that the magazine supplement broke all records for advertising revenue - a fat $2.1m - suggesting that profit, not editorial discretion, was the guiding factor at work here. Most damaging of all was the revelation that the LA Times management had agreed to share the advertising revenue 50-50 with the enterprise it was reporting on - that's right, the Staples Center itself - and that it had chosen to conceal that fact even from the journalists who put the supplement together.

The result: a media furore of rare intensity, even in a city like Los Angeles where covert power games, blatant conflicts of interest and big building projects have gone together hand-in-glove for decades. The LA Times' legendary former publisher, Otis Chandler, emerged from retirement to describe the ethical lapse as "the most serious single threat to the future survival and growth of this great newspaper".

Local politicians have been cracking jokes with their journalistic contacts, asking what the going rate is to get themselves on to the front page.

The paper's editorial staff, meanwhile, feel betrayed and angry, and have declared a virtual state of war on the corporate management. For the journalists, this is the latest outrage since their parent company, Times Mirror, appointed an aggressive Wall Street financier called Mark Willes as chief executive two years ago. One of Mr Willes' first acts was to announce that advertising and editorial departments should work more closely together so that the paper's content could be more closely determined by its revenue potential; the Staples episode is just one more instance of that philosophy.

The journalists have had their revenge by publishing the most embarrassing details of the affair in the newspaper as they emerge. In response, publisher Kathryn Downing has been forced to announce a special investigation, to be conducted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter David Shaw and printed in full in the paper. It's a curious spectacle: watching one of America's most prominent publications tearing itself apart on its own pages.

WHILE THE Times teeters, another LA institution is doing remarkably well, especially considering that he is dead.

Sherman Block served as LA County Sheriff for 17 years, becoming so essential a part of the local political machine that he secured the highest salary of any public official in the country - an astonishing $223,000 a year. He commanded such power that when he died a few days before the end of his fifth re-election campaign last year, his friends insisted on keeping his name on the ballot, if only to spite his opponent. He got 40 per cent of the vote - not enough to win, but not bad for a dead candidate.

One year on, Sheriff Block is defying the hereafter once more, following a decision by the county pension board to keep paying his full salary. He won't have much use for the money himself, of course, but his widow Alyce will find it handy.

Normally, she would have received a pension equivalent to 60 per cent of his salary, but the pension board decided she deserved the full whack on the highly dubious grounds that her husband's death was work-related (he suffered a stroke, at home, aged 74). "She's definitely the highest paid widow in the country," one board member said. When Bill Clinton retires, he'll only get $151,800 a year - and that on condition that he stays alive.

PUT-DOWN of the week: Trey Parker, co-creator of the irreverent TV cartoon turned movie South Park, meets George Lucas of Star Wars fame at a very glitzy Hollywood party.

"I haven't seen your movie yet," says Lucas.

"I didn't see yours either," replies Parker, slightly the worse for Scotch, "after everyone said, you know... it sucked."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice