Washington Post Columnist Investigates Perpetually Postponed LA Times Celebration Party

LA Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb’s May 3 email to a Los Angeles Times Media Group exec is one of the ages. Two years after he, Ruben Vives and colleagues won a $35,000 USC Annenberg prize for their exposure of the massive Bell city corruption scandal (ahead of the Public Service Pulitzer), he was having to question the financial allotment practices at his own paper.

Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple thoroughly retraces the history of this long-simmering matter and also, for the piece, took Gottlieb’s complaints to newspaper spokesperson Nancy Sullivan. When, Wemple wanted to know on Gottlieb’s behalf, was that promised celebration party funded by residual Selden Ring prize money going to finally take place? From Sullivan’s quoted reply:

“A small amount was set aside for a staff party. The party was postponed several times for various reasons but will be held in the near future.”

“There is unequivocally no financial abuse, lack of accountability or transparency involved… There is nothing unusual in utilizing a small portion of the Selden Ring prize money to honor the large team of Times staffers who made our Bell coverage a reality. In fact, the decision to do so was voted on by the team itself. The fact that the celebration hasn’t happened yet speaks to the busy nature of newsrooms.”

The bigger question, argues Wemple, is whether a paper like the LA Times should be allowed to take reporting prize money and spend it on a party. It’s well within the USC Annenberg reward rules (and those of one other prize involved here), but, suggests Wemple, maybe it shouldn’t be.

[Photo courtesy: USC Annenberg]

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.