In the very heart of downtown Los Angeles, in the shadow of City Hall, a new office building is nearing completion at the corner of First and Spring Streets. With its modern, steel-and-glass design, the new building stands in sharp contrast to its venerable neighbor just across Spring Street, a 1930s Art Deco masterpiece designed by Gordon Kaufmann, architect of the Hoover Dam.
As different as the buildings are in their architectural styles, the greater distinction lies in the organizations these two structures represent. Sometime early next year, the modern building will become the new headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department, which will move from the boxy, ‘50s-era Parker Center so familiar to viewers of the Dragnet television series. And when the cops have at last moved into their new offices, they’ll be able to look across Spring Street and see their neighbors in the Art Deco landmark doing in reality what they’ve seen them doing figuratively for years: looking down their noses at them.
The Art Deco landmark, you see, houses the writers and editors of the Los Angeles Times. Moving the cops into close quarters with all those ink-stained wretches at the Times is rather like the Capulets moving in across the street from the Montagues, such is the antipathy we cops have for the scribes at the paper and they for us. Which is not to say there will soon be swordplay in the middle of Spring Street (although that does conjure up an interesting visual), but it could make for some interesting encounters on the sidewalks and in the taverns nearby.
I should point out that this antipathy is not universal on either side. I, for one, am on friendly terms with a number of Times writers and editors, and I’ve been fortunate enough to write an occasional column for the paper’s opinion pages. But when it comes to the LAPD as a whole, the attitude at the Times seems to be one of sneering condescension. And as for my colleagues in blue, attitudes toward the city’s newspaper of record ranges from blithe disregard to utter contempt. For example, when I ask my coworkers if they have read this or that article or editorial in the paper, the responses tend to run along these lines:
“I don’t read the L.A. Times.”
Or, “I read it and I hated it.”
Or, perhaps the most common, “I don’t read the (insert common but unprintably graphic expletive here) L.A. Times.”
Why do such attitudes prevail among the city’s cops? It is simple.