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Arts and Entertainment

L.A. Times Reporters Had To Fight Their Bosses For Tickets To Cover Oscars

The cast and crew of 'Spotlight' accept the award for Best Picture at the 88th Academy Awards. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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On an Oscars night when the triumph of journalism was the big winner, the local paper of record had its own struggles with covering the event.For Sunday's big show the L.A. Times was allotted six tickets, and initially the none of them were going to any reporters on staff. Sources told Politico that the passes were given to Tribune Publishing chairman Michael Ferro, Tribune Publishing CEO Justin Dearborn, L.A. Times publisher Tim Ryan, and their own +1s.

Whatever your opinions of either the Oscars or L.A. Times (and boy, do people have opinions on both), you would think that one of the top 5 newspapers in the country—by circulation—would be mindful enough to send their own reporters to cover the biggest event right in their own backyard. I guess not. According to Politico, similar struggles over passes to the Emmys and Grammys had previously peeved the newsroom.

The Times' film desk fired off a sternly worded email to Ryan and editor Davan Maharaj, voicing their concerns over this issue. The email, obtained by Politico, read as follows:

Tim and Davan, We on the film team were shocked to learn this week that the paper has not allocated a single one of its Oscar tickets to a reporter.

All of our competitors will have reporters both in the Dolby and at the Governors Ball. Here's how they're using their Oscar tickets:

Entertainment Weekly: 2 reporters, 2 editors

AP: 2 reporters

The New York Times: reporter plus 1

The Wall Street Journal: reporter plus 1

The Hollywood Reporter: 1 reporter, 1 editor

Variety: 1 reporter, 1 editor

Our reporters do not sit through the show, but rather use this access to gather exclusive quotes on the controversies of the evening in the lobbies and bars, deliver feeds on how the audience is receiving the host and solicit comments from the losers, who are not made available in the press room.

Entertainment coverage is a bedrock of this paper's identity. To fail to send a single reporter on a year when the Oscars are at the center of a cultural debate over diversity is not only embarrassing, it's bad journalism. Would the LA Times ever cover a political convention or a sporting event this way?

Please tell us that you will reconsider, and distribute at least one of the Times' Oscar tickets to a reporter.

Eventually, Tim Ryan gave up his tickets and reporters Amy Kaufman and Steve Zeitchik were able to cover the Oscars ceremony. Crisis averted!
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"Every year, we divide our tickets between the newsroom and the business side, as entertainment is both a huge area of coverage and advertising," told LA Observed. "This year was no different and the practice is in line with many media organizations." Maharaj told Politico, "We had a robust contingent of reporters and photographers on the red carpet, in the ballroom, backstage and in the auditorium."

Aside from the irony of the L.A. Times coming close to not even having a reporter inside the auditorium when Spotlight took home Best Picture (an event that almost every journalist went nuts over), it's odd that they couldn't spare at least one ticket to a reporter given how wall-to-wall was their coverage of the Oscars. It ranged from the worthy topic of the #OscarsSoWhite backlash to fluffy material like Oscars Bingo and a Guess the Dress game. The Oscars are a big deal for the L.A. Times—just look at the front page of the special section that went out with Monday's issue:

In semi-related news, the paper announced on Wednesday that Maharaj would be taking on the title of "editor-publisher" in a "shakeup" of Tribune Publishing. Coinciding with the change, Maharaj would also be in charge of the newly launched Editors at eight other Tribune papers, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, were also named editor-publisher in the move. Publisher Tim Ryan moved on to a higher position within Tribune Publishing, assuming the title of president of publishing.