…The newspaper’s announcement today that Sallie Hofmeister is the new Business Editor. She’d overseen entertainment and technology stories, including the Los Angeles Times‘ embarrassingly weak coverage of the writers strike which new editor Russ Stanton effusively praises in this memo about her appointment. So let me clarify: reporting late on that strike’s many news developments, or ignoring altogether those that showed the Hollywood moguls in an unflattering light, is how to get ahead there.

As I reported during the strike, to the LA Times, the Michelin restaurant ratings were more important news than WGA strikers. lat-page-one.jpgThere was, for example, no Page One news article or photo of the 4,000-person WGA strike rally, the biggest in the guild’s history. The WGA march on Fox was reduced to a 655-word story on page 2 in the Business section. And the paper used an unofficial estimate of 3,500, not the WGA’s estimate of 4,000 or the LAPD’s estimate of 5,000. I’ve read articles three times as long about French wine-making. Instead of a photo of the strike on Page One, there was a generic shot of Benazir Bhutto, an article about Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, and a really urgent piece about Michelin ratings and LA chefs. And for the life of me, even seven paragraphs in, I still can’t figure out what the Column One story about “A Pioneer Refuses to Fade Away” was about.

I kept carping about the LA Times’ incredibly slanted coverage of this producers v writers dispute. But jeez — a business article claimed “The guild has so far resisted offers by agents and politicians to help broker a peace, according to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.” Huh? I must have been covering some other strike because my reporting shows the producers have resisted the mayor’s offer and the governor never even offered to put himself on the hot seat. (If anything, anti-union Arnold was only schmoozing those powerful moguls who all gave money to his re-election campaign because he’s anti-union.) Gee, ya think this has to do with the fact that movie advertising keeps declining in the paper, and the Powers-That-Be there want to curry favor with the Powers-That-Be in showbiz?

But such b.s. is to be expected. I’ve heard many first-hand accounts of a long list of recent Los Angeles Times’ publishers and editors (especially now that there’s a virtual conga line of fired ones) intimately lunching with the Hollywood moguls and unctuously extending the newspaper’s editorial help in a craven bid to extract more movie advertising which has been cut to the bone by the film studios. Now that’s just the ticket to really independent showbiz coverage, no?