By Alexander C. Kaufman | @AlexCKaufman
The worst thing about journalism classes at Emerson College was the growing number of students from Los Angeles.
A steady crop of budding entertainment reporters — more concerned with the Kardashians than the geopolitical implications of labeling the Armenian genocide a genocide — did well to lower the bar on class discussions of ethics, the First Amendment, the duty of a free press to a democracy.
And it did well to make me disavow Los Angeles. I was a proud Northeast native. A snob. Never. Ever. Ever. Will I work in L.A. Never. Nope. It’s not even a real city. For the love God, it’s a sprawling suburb. You can’t even see the skyline through the smog of all those cars! Is there even a skyline? What a wasteland. A mecca of superficiality and vapidity.
Then, I made my hajj.
I spent a week in Hollywood reporting on Emerson’s groundbreaking on its new satellite campus there, and realized I had a reluctant crush. In a few short days, I had observed the city’s sprawl from the Griffith Observatory, blasted “Wildfire” by Sbtrkt while driving down the (surprisingly) empty 405 at night and sipped whiskey atop one of the high rises downtown. I was begrudgingly smitten. Call it geographical hate sex.
My line when I got back and had to justify this sudden 180 reversal on my L.A.-policy?
“It’s either that or New York, and if I move back to New York I’ll be like every other New Yorker who never leaves New York.”
Easy enough logic, right?
Step two: Find a job. That, inevitably, would be followed by the equally important third step: Find a job that will allow you to respect yourself as a journalist.
When I started working at The Boston Globe roughly two years ago, writing up short breaking news stories and occasional features for the metro section, I swore I’d never go back to being a barista.
As I began my hasty — I had about a month to lock this down — job search, I promised myself I wouldn’t make anything less than a lateral move from the Globe, which is hard, because when you’re getting checks from the New York Times Company at 20 years old, “lateral” is asking a lot.
Problem is, unlike information-hungry metropoles like New York and, to a lesser degree, Boston, Los Angeles is a city built around its industry, entertainment. That’s when I discovered what my film nerd friends had always read, trade publications.
I realized then that The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and TheWrap — where I am now working as a media reporter — were by no means of the same ilk as TMZ and E!. Rather, these were business publications doing exactly what good journalism does — tracking and monitoring power. Hollywood heaveyweights like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Katzenberg and George Clooney.
The key is to see an actor as a product, not a celebrity. Lindsay Lohan’s latest mishap is important — not because it’s good gossip, but because there is a lot of money invested in her and her projects.
In 2009, the film industry generated $137 billion and 2.2 million jobs, according to the Motion Pictures Association of America. It purveys a product — entertainment — to customers (audiences) from Beijing to Boston.
And trade reporters are charged with keeping a check on that power, though it may take a Watergate-style take-down of DreamWorks’ CEO to earn the respect of the stodgy East Coast.
Alexander C. Kaufman is a Los Angeles-based blogger for the Future Boston Alliance’s “Lalalanded” column, a collection of observations about life on the West Coast. Originally from New York, he moved to recently moved from Boston to California to write for TheWrap.com.