LOS ANGELES — The tremors may have had morning TV anchors diving under the desk, but it takes more than a 4.4 quiver to rattle Eric Garcetti.
So opens New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd on March 18, noticing that we have a new mayor. What follows is a fairly standard and probably reasonable column with plenty of local color. (I think there's a rule posted on the wall at the Times - and NPR - that pieces about LA must either refer to earthquakes or "Dragnet.")
The Dowd column got LA Weekly writer Hillel Aron thinking that he could save other out-of-town journos assigned to write about Garcetti a lot of time, hence "How to Write an Eric Garcetti Puff Piece In 10 Easy Steps."
I see you're here to write about our new mayor, Eric Garcetti. Actually, he's not that new, he's been on the job for about nine months now, although he's off to something of a slow start. ... Lots to say about the new mayor, and only so many column inches to say it in, and you probably want to hit the beach for a day or two. Here then is a simple 10-step guide to writing an Eric Garcetti puff piece that's at least as good as all the other ones.
My favorite is #5:
5) Now you'll want to throw in a bit of "balance," as we say in the journalism biz. Begin a sentence with "Critics say..." Then you can pretty much make up anything you want: he's too liberal, he's not liberal enough, his ears are too big, what is jazz piano, anyway? If you really want to get hard hitting, you can point out that no one actually knows what Mayor Garcetti's plans and priorities are, or what the hell he does all day.
Ouch! Dowd uses "Critics say..." twice within four paragraphs.
Then there's this:
6) I suppose you'll probably want to quote some so-called "expert" in local politics around here. Unfortunately, Dan Schnur is running for Secretary of State (not as impressive as it sounds). That leaves roughly two people: Fernando Guerra and Raph Sonenshein.
Which presaged a piece in Time magazine published after Hillel filed his.
“His style kind of captures the mood of the city as it is now and as it’s evolved,” says Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University at Los Angeles. “L.A. is a city that’s becoming more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan, and he has an intercultural fluency. He also has a pretty youthful sensibility.”
Dowd missed her big chance when she followed Garcetti to Tom Bergin's. You can find lots of great Irish pubs in New York. She should have made Hizzoner take her to Langer's, for pastrami that beats anything she'd find in New York.