Business Update with Mark Lacter

Kevin Roderick of LA Observed on the late Mark Lacter

Kevin Roderick/LA Observed

Business journalist Mark Lacter, a KPCC contributor who passed away Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Nine years ago, KPCC hired a business analyst named Mark Lacter to talk about transportation here in Southern California and many, many other stories. Mark passed away last week. Tuesday morning is the time that he would have joined Steve Julian, KPCC's host of Morning Edition, to talk about some of the business stories here in Southern California that are topical and of interest to you. 

This Tuesday, Julian sat down with Kevin Roderick to talk about the special reporting legacy Mark Lacter left behind.

Q: Kevin Roderick, the founder and editor of LA Observed, you worked with Mark for quite a long time? 

Yes I did, Steve, although not as long as you, it turns out. He came to LA Observed in 2006, so not quite as long as he's been doing this.

Q: He had been with the L.A. Business Journal. What was it about his style, his writing, that attracted you?

Well, one thing is he was always just very clear about what he would talk about. He could take these complex economic and business issues and things like infrastructure and make them really interesting. And I thought he was the best of doing that in any business writer in Los Angeles area.

Q: He was so able to take complex stories and not dumbing them down at all, but making them accessible to everyday people.

And he absolutely loved doing that. This was a skill he brought with him from probably his newspaper days, and it was just something he really enjoyed doing. He especially liked telling stories about really complicated things that would seem boring in most people's hands, like the operations of the Port of Los Angeles or the airports. He just loved taking those and digging around and playing around with the material that's inherent in these operations and making a really compelling story out of it. 

Q: One thing I noticed about his reporting with us was that, at the end of the segment, he would always have some sort of prediction: "This is not going to happen anytime soon." Did you find that coming through in his writing as well?

He did have a strong point of view, and I think that's one of the things that made him magical as a writer on the blog. Now it's also a hot button thing; that was what made him controversial to some people. He had strong opinions about things like transit in Los Angeles. ... [With public transit,] he understood  it conceptually, and he liked seeing it work in other cities. He just was unconvinced that Los Angeles was the kind of place that was going to become transit-dependent or a lot of people would start riding the light rail and subways. […] And he was only slowly coming around to that. ... It's just one of those areas where he was kind of opinionated.

Q: Didn't you try to handcuff him and take him onto the Green Line or something? 

I told him, ... "Mark, one of these days." I've been taking the Expo Line downtown and enjoying it and riding the rails all over the city, and I was going to have to take him on. I wish we'd been able to do that.

Q: That opportunity will not come, and the hole that Mark leaves behind in his reportage, I don’t know how it gets filled in that same style, because he was just one of a kind. 

Well, you know, your segments here on Tuesday mornings with him were, I think, very special moments in Los Angeles radio. You guys obviously had a very good rapport. But he was also communicating really important issues, I think, and it was a great forum for that, and he will be very much missed in this forum and all of his others. 

Q: Who takes his place with you? And how do you handle that as an editor?

... He came to me in 2006 and said he would like to start writing a blog. He had never been online, and he really wanted an online forum, and it just sort of grew out of that. He took it from writing just about business to writing about city hall politics and transportation issues. And if it wasn't for him, we would probably not have a business component at the LA Observed. And I'm not sure we're going to have one going forward. It's going to be a matter of sitting down and talking to other people and seeing if there's someone else who would like to do it. But it may just be something that lived and died with Mark Lacter. Something we're unable to continue to doing, but I don't know that for sure yet, still too fresh.

A funeral service for Lacter will be held at noon Sunday, followed by a reception. More details at LA Observed.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when Mark Lacter died.


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