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A Story About Some Store
They can't even get the inane stuff right in the LA Times features section.

In yesterday's LA Times Calendar section, Booth Moore, most mystifyingly the Times' fashion correspondent, writes a 767 word story about a woman who owns a famous store in Los Angeles -- and never mentions the name of the store:

When it comes to fashion in Los Angeles, all roads lead to Diane Merrick.

She opened her boutique on Melrose Avenue in 1972, when the street was still sleepy, with bungalows nestled among the emerging decorator shops. Back then, Merrick sold antiques — jewelry and garage sale finds — and would gladly drive her Ford Courier pickup out to Malibu to deliver items to Barbra Streisand and other clients.

Slowly, clothing came into the mix — first T-shirts, then jeans with a big "?" on the back pocket. (These prototypes, which the Marciano brothers sold door to door, were the foundation of the Guess? empire.) She remembers "Maxi" — Max Azria — peddling $18 rayon print dresses by the fistful out of his downtown studio (the beginnings of the multimillion-dollar BCBG business). And then there was James Perse selling $8 Fleur de Lis T-shirts near his father's Maxfield store (now he has his own clothing line and boutiques).

Retailer to the stars Tracey Ross worked for Merrick for four years before opening her Sunset Boulevard boutique. So did Claire Stansfield, co-founder of the C&C California T-shirt label, which was sold to Liz Claiborne last year for $28 million. Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, the duo behind Juicy Couture, met when they were both working at the shop part time. L.A. designer Jenni Kayne even worked there for a summer.

But a few weeks ago, after 34 years, Merrick learned that the building her store occupied on Melrose was being torn down. She thought it might be time to retire. "But I realized I wasn't ready," she said. "And here I am."

She's opened a new shop in what she has dubbed the "Beverly Heights shopping district," a place as inviting as your grandmother's house, with an overstuffed couch, a big-screen TV tuned to E! and cookies and lemonade on offer.

"I've had customers for four generations," said Merrick, 69, dressed in black pants, a T-shirt in her favorite shocking pink, and diamond and platinum chain necklaces, her hand resting on the coiffed head of her Maltipoo dog, Doll Face. "It's been fun watching the evolution of all these people, of their stories," she said. "And it's amazing how many little kids have had their own MasterCards and their own cars."

Charming, isn't it? Don't let any critical thoughts escape into that story, Booth! Booth goes on and on, but still no store name:

The store, on Beverly Boulevard near Martel Avenue, is 2 1/2 times the size of the original. Bright and airy, it has hardwood floors, custom moldings, chandeliers and lots of alcoves for jeans, T-shirts, gauzy beach dresses, handbags and sandals from Ella Moss, James Perse, Splendid, Juicy Couture, Tarte, Sweetees, Botkier, Kooba, Seychelles, J Brand, True Religion, Paige and more. There are also mirrored glass cases for her beloved jewels, and shelves full of her luscious private-label cashmere ponchos and wraps ($198 to $275) in a rainbow of colors.


I read the story in a hard copy of yesterday's paper at a no-Internet cafe, and I was mystified. I looked it up when I got online.

It turns out the woman's name -- Diana Merrick -- is the name of the store; specifically, Diana Merrick Clothing Salon. Booth might have written "whose eponymous store." Then again, I recognize that many readers don't have the capacity for words beyond two syllables, so maybe simply throwing in a mention of the name of the place would have been a wise idea?

Hmmm...maybe they won't run my column because I'm just too meticulous for them?

FYI to Booth, perhaps you hadn't noticed, but LA is an extremely transient city, meaning not everybody has been here 25 years and knows all the stores.

Speaking of The LA Times, Cathy Seipp writes in an "Outside The Tent" piece in today's Times -- one of the pieces criticizing the paper -- of how they marginalize writers on the internets. Perhaps it's just me, but if they're going to marginalize anyone, it seems it should be a few of their own writers. Here's an excerpt from Cathy's piece:

According to a front-page California section story, the governor, signaled his "support for long-stalled legislation banning drivers' use of hand-held cellphones" — but where, exactly, he signaled that support was kept vague. Did Schwarzenegger tell this to a Times reporter during a one-on-one interview? Did someone from the paper attend a news conference?

Nothing of the sort. The entire piece was based on what The Times described as "an online interview with a reporter broadcast over the Internet." And that, dear readers, is all the information your daily paper thinks you need to know.

The Times correctly considered Schwarzenegger's position on cellphones important enough that the follow-up story the next day made the front page. And still I wondered: What reporter? Broadcast where, exactly, over the Internet?

If these stories had been based on a Schwarzenegger interview in a traditional newspaper — whether the Washington Post or a small-town weekly — The Times almost certainly would have credited the source, and rightly so.

A little Googling revealed that Schwarzenegger took questions from the public directly during a webcam chat moderated by Kate Folmar of the San Jose Mercury News.

And it was a few years back, but the best was when the late David Shaw, who bragged about the paper's fact-checking, referred to David Poland as "writing on the Internet." Cathy writes:

"Writing on the Internet"? Where? In a chat room or message board or something? From Shaw's dismissive tone, that's what you might have thought.

Actually, Poland — who now makes a living covering Hollywood through paid advertising on his Movie City News website — was working at the time for TNT's (now-defunct), then a popular source for Hollywood news.

That The Times saw no need to identify this online publication was more than a lapse of professional courtesy; "writing on the Internet" is mainstream media code for "unreliable." Readers might have appreciated the chance to check out Poland's column for themselves, and a newspaper that withholds such basic information isn't serving the public.

Beyond that, how are newspapers going to compete with online news if they can't even acknowledge that it exists?

The truth is, papers say they want younger readers, but few are willing or quick to get off their asses and get them. Ask yourselves why my column, which is extraordinarily popular in the OC Register and many other dailies and alt weeklies, doesn't run in my local paper, the Los Angeles Times. Ask yourself why you read so few other local writers in the paper, or, rather, good local writers, except in the Op-Ed section, which they've reformed. (Ever read any of those mostly dreadful and unfunny Thursday Calendar pieces on dating?) If you'd like to ask them why they do all the mystifying things they do in the features sections of the Los Angeles Times, John Montorio is the features editor.

P.S. On a positive note, Carina Chocano, their new film and TV critic, is very good. So is Tim Rutten. There are others there who are good or not bad, too. In other words, I don't hate the LA Times, I just hate bad or mediocre writing, and the way their features section is mostly just a phone-book sized collection of reviews, probably so they don't have to cover much that's newsworthy in culture -- and likely get caught with their collective pants down.

Posted by aalkon at July 23, 2006 9:59 AM

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