Looking for Local News in LA?

Joe Matthews, one-time labor reporter for the LA Times, wrote a piece in Sunday’s Washington Post (hat tip, Matthew Yglesias) arguing that in the Los Angeles TV news market “the sharpest coverage of state and local issues — government, politics, immigration, labor, economics, health care — is now found on Spanish-language TV” — Univision’s KMEX and Telmundo affiliate KVEA, specifically.

Matthews has “been watching these two Spanish newscasts and their English competitors on the local ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates” and concludes that viewers of the former “got fewer soft features and more deeply reported, longer pieces.” (How much has Matthews “been watching?” Is he basing his conclusions on a week’s-worth of observation? A month? More? His findings are interesting but it’d be nice to know exactly what they’re based on).

For example, Matthews describes:

On a recent night, KVEA did eight minutes on the Iraq war, spent five minutes on deplorable working conditions in Southern California car washes and had reports on narco-traffickers and the latest key legislation in the state legislature and Los Angeles City Hall. Meanwhile, the CBS affiliate had a reporter doing a trend piece on “night spas” that are open until midnight, and ABC was running an item on high-tech fitness equipment.

Matthews concedes that “journalistic ethics have not been sterling” on some of the Spanish-language channels and that they take an “advocacy approach” to journalism but contends that the “upside” to the latter is that “viewers are engaged more as citizens than consumers.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.