LATimes writer leaving; frustrated with lack of labor coverage
Los Angeles Times reporter Nancy Cleeland is one of the nearly five dozen journalists taking a buyout and leaving the paper. She writes on Huffington Post that her departure is primarily due to her frustration with the paper’s coverage of working people and organized labor.
The Times dropped the labor beat a year ago. Since then, Cleeland has been covering education.
She wrote, “In Los Angeles, the underground economy is growing faster than the legitimate one, which means more exploited workers, greater economic polarization, and a diminishing quality of life for everyone who lives here. True, it’s harder to capture those kinds of stories than to scan divorce files and lawsuits. But over time, solid reporting on the economic life of Los Angeles could bring distinction and credibility to the Times. It also holds tremendous potential for interacting with readers. And, above all, it’s important.
“In a way, the Times created my obsession for economic and class issues by sending me into low-wage Los Angeles as part of a 1998 initiative to increase coverage of Latinos. I was a seasoned journalist with lots of experience in Third World countries. Still, the level of exploitation I saw shocked me. Illegal immigrants, in particular, had no rights. In a range of industries, including manufacturing and retail, they were routinely underpaid and fired after any attempt to assert rights or ask for higher wages.
“That disregard for workers spread up the chain of regional jobs, just as a crash in subprime home loans eventually lowers the entire real estate market. The same is happening to various degrees across the country.”
Read more here. During a decade at the Times, she covered major labor disputes, including a port shutdown and several regional strikes, and exposed harsh conditions faced by immigrant workers. She was a lead writer on a 2004 series about Walmart’s labor policies and sourcing practices that won the Pulitzer, Polk and other prestigious awards.