My First Time At The Los Angeles Times

A month ago, I scheduled a dinner with a childhood friend from Australia who was coming through town for a couple of days.

Then I got Tony Pierce‘s invite to a blogger gathering at the LA Times.

I’ve never been to the LA Times.

My friend can wait!

Then I got invited to speak along with the LAT’s Peter Viles and Andrew Malcolm and a few other blokes (David Markland from Metblogging, Eric Richardson from BlogDowntown, Logan Molen from Bakotopia, .

No sheilas got invited to speak!

But this Los Angeles chapter meeting of the Online News Association was organized by two sheilas, including Janine Warner.

I left Pico-Robertson at 6 p.m. By 6:30, I was driving north through downtown. I take a right on First Street and park on the side of the road just before I hit Spring Street.

Spring Street is famous. Cathy Seipp used to write about it all the times. It is the home of the Los Angeles Times, California’s most powerful media institution.

I get out of my car and look around. There’s a huge gothic building beside me. At the top of the entrance, it says "Los Angeles Times" in that fancy script.

I’m sure the door will be locked. No way did I find parking right outside the LA Times.

The door is open.

There’s on security guard.

I’m sure he won’t know who I am. I’m probably not on the list. I’ll have to wait. I’ll get hassle. Bloggers get no respect.

I start mumbling to the guard and who says, "You want to go to the fifth floor."

The Harry Chandler auditorium is my destination.

I take the elevator up, walk in, and look at my watch. It’s 6:37 p.m.

The event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

I see some chicks and they don’t look interested in me.

Must be the beard.

I’m nervous. I need a prop.

I go for the drinks. That lemon iced tea looks great. Pick it up and study the label. Can’t find a hechser (kosher certification). I reluctantly put it down and start guzzling water.

Tony Pierce walks in. "You’ve been here before?" he says.

"Never."

He gives me a tour.

We enter the newsroom and walk past Russ Stanton. The place is quiet. People are listening to stuff through headphones.

I love newsrooms. I belong here! Where did I go wrong? Oh, the shame, the shame. Oy, I’m just a blogger. I wanted to be a big shot. Oh, the things I could do if I ran this place!

We end up in sports and Tony ends up in an endless conversation about training journalists to use photos and videos on the LAT’s websites. The conversation meanders from who belongs in a beginners blogging class vs. an intermediate blogging class (taught by Tony) and different types of photo and video editing software and how one particular video editing software is so amazing that you can meld two videos together.

"This is all very interesting," I say, "but I think I have to go."

Back to the fifth floor. So many hot chicks. Not too many fatties.

I wrote out my speech. Big mistake. I’ll seem pompous. Should just summarize my main points. But I want to meet people. But I don’t want to seem needy.

I’ll just wait for them to come to me.

Nobody’s coming.

Oy, the shame!

I’ll push myself into a conversation. It’s all guys. I won’t seem glompy. If I screw this up, it won’t matter much.

Oy, this boring talk.

Let’s move around the room. I want to find a table. Sit down. Work on my speech. Seem cool, calm and collected. Let the game come to me!

Whoa, there’s a table with my name on it! "LUKE FORD of Lukeford.net."

Oh man, how much longer will I see such signs? By the time the rabbis are done with me, I’ll be just another Orthodox Jew writing about which lunchtime special represents the best value at Pico-Robertson’s kosher restaurants.

HaShem save! Bring success now! Let my life be filled with Torah, good deeds and hot chix!

When I stroke my beard, does it make me look wise or does it make you want to hurl? I’m glad I put conditioner on my beard this morning, any woman in her right mind would love to run her fingers through my beard right now. It’s soft and silky.

Boy, I could do with a massage right now. Help me relax.

Must take it easy on the water. Three bottles is enough. I’ve got to speak soon. And then I’m driving to Venice. I’m gonna be late. Oy, I’m such a bad friend.

Must stop thinking about sex. Instead, contemplate my mother’s pure love for me.

Ahh, that’s better.

Meeting starts late. They’re going in reverse alphabetical order.

Everybody is so nice and collegial. How will I ever fit in?

I’m relieved nobody is shaming me.

Logan Molen:

Andrew Malcolm:

David Markland writes about politics for KNBC:

I’m last to speak.

I go up front and take the microphone from Janine.

Oy, she’s so beautiful, I could just stare at her all day (with her husband’s permission).

I wish Kate Coe, Sandra Tsingh Loh and Amy Alkon were here. They’d keep me in line. Stop me from invoking "HaShem" every other sentence.

I hope I haven’t lost my ability to communicate with the goyim. They can be so inscrutable.

I wonder how personal I should get. Should I discuss my latest shul ejection? Would that make people hate Jews? What if I start to talk about it and then I start crying? Ahmadinajad will read about that and then he’ll conclude he can get away with nuking Israel.

Must be strong for Israel.

Start by noting that it was nine years ago that I was named "Asshole of the Month" by Hustler magazine’s Christmas issue.

Go downhill from there.

Not much laughter. That was my best joke. Best wrap things up fast.

Speech over. It is time for questions. Nobody has any questions. Oy, the shame! I’ve bored them. I’ve made HaShem look bad in front of the goyim. Must tuck my tzitzit in and flee.

Here’s my speech. I must’ve left the lens cap on. There’s only audio.

Janine pleads for questions.

I take three and sit down.

When it’s all over, I need another bottle of water.

A grand total of one person comes over to talk to me.

I must flee and treasure my remaining friend.

It’s ten pm.

Venice.

"You’re whole demeanor has changed," he says. "You’re more calm and centered."

"It’s Alexander Technique," I say. "I’m two inches taller. I feel better than I have in years. I do Alexander Technique classes twice a week, get acupuncture twice a week, and take these supplements from FRS.com. I don’t know which of these is most responsible, but for the first time in 20 years, I have energy.

"In the rest of my life, I’m struggling. I’ve retreated within. Can’t take any more rejection."

Eric Ulken writes:

What happens when you put a bunch of bloggers in a room, feed them pizza and moderate a discussion on their craft? You end up with two real-time conversations: One in the physical room and the other in the Twitterverse.

I know that’s no surprise to those who populate this corner of cyberspace, but as a newbie here — and, until recently, an admitted Twitter skeptic — I have to say it was pretty fun to watch a virtual dialogue unfold alongside the real-world one, as it did last Thursday night at the Los Angeles Times.

The local ONA gathering on blogging (pix here) drew about 60 people to the Harry Chandler Auditorium for an informal talk with L.A. bloggers including Luke Ford (pictured) and the Times’ Andrew Malcolm.

Report:

I got to briefly meet Luke Ford via an introduction by Tony Pierce before the event started. I’d known his name for a long time, but hadn’t really followed him. He’s been making his living off blogging for more than 10 years, beginning by writing about the porn industry. In order to keep his place at his synagogue, he had to give that up, refocusing on Judaism. He also broke the story about mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s marriage ending.

Mr. Ford got up to speak about the morality of anonymous blogging. He briefly shared an anecdote about outing an anonymous 18-year old Jewish blogger whose work was hurting others. He was suspended from his synagogue. When he told his rabbi that writing required truth, the rabbi countered that being Jewish required kindness.

That’s where it gets interesting. Luke’s position was, “Kindness to whom? Isn’t it being kind to the person who would have suffered from the next attack?” He distilled the moral question down to a simple answer. Blogging using your name forces you to be responsible for your work. I love the idea for its elegance.

William Yelles writes:

Blogging as pure personal commentary may soon be a thing of the past as more mainstream journalism ventures dominate the practice and new entrepreneurial outlets take a more magazine-style approach to the medium, panelists and attendees at an Online News Association event agreed.

The discussion held last night at the Los Angeles Times’ Chandler Auditorium centered on the transformation of blogging into big business and showcased a diversity of formats and philosophies. 

In her introductory remarks, LATimes.com executive editor Meredith Artley noted that often when posting news such as the recent Southern California wildfires, staffers are pressed with deciding what is the best medium to share up-to-the-minute information; oftentimes blog posts can be more valuable than a traditional article format and the lines are blurring as more blogs turn to real-time reporting.

Two of Artley’s staffers — Peter Viles, who writes about real estate on the Times’ L.A. Land blog, and Andrew Malcolm, who co-writes the Times’ election focused blog Top of the Ticket — served as mainstream media’s blogosphere reps.

A friend emails me:

Sigh. I wish. If I were 20 years younger, which means stronger of resolve & demographically appealing to our youth-obsessed entertainment industry, I might have a shot … I spend far too much downtime musing about all the "nearlys" & "not-quites" that I experienced before settling for porn … directing gigs are few & far between, as the brave new porn world is even more stripped down & stupid than what you used to cover … all backwards-baseball cap wearing, faux-hawked "content producers" nowadays; the few old-school gigs are being death-gripped by the ever-aging usual suspects … on a melancholy note, attended Ron Sullivan’s wake a few weeks back; he finally succumbed to his cancer. It was a weird gathering of the Old Tribe, with people I barely knew but who recognized me as a fellow dinosaur greeting me warmly.

Excuse me, I must get back to practicing my karoake version of Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River" …

About Luke Ford

I’ve written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).

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