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Top Summer Reading: The LA Times Homicide Blog

Ditch the Jacqueline Susann paperbacks this summer and shock yourself conscious with LA Times Homicide Blog

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by LamontPaul, for outsideleft.com
originally published: May, 2007
The Los Angeles Times Homicide Report, as morticians say, serves the living, by caring for the dead.

Newspapers, they're pretty maligned these days, under assault from every possible angle, creative, commercial, environmental... Anecdotally, they either can't get their facts straight or they don't get the facts at all. Only cable news is regarded more risibly. All you can rely upon from the daily paper is that fewer people will read it tomorrow than read it today.

And then there's the Los Angeles Times. For whatever reason, one of the more maligned. Admittedly there is something unattractive about it, maybe the design, the format or the size.

Carp as I must, there's a lot to love too - all the basketball reporters, I suck down every word... The Fry's Electronics ad... Dan Neil, their Pulitzer prize-winning auto-journalist never misses, writing about driving cars the way you drive them. I believe he even managed to get GM to pull all of their auto ads at one time with his underwhelming assessment of the newest mediocre addition to an uninspired product line.

Just the other day, after somewhat fortuitously finding the paper under the table at an East Sunset Jack in the Box, I found acres of column inches dedicated to the glass vs. plastic baby bottle debate... And hardly any of it from a plastic industry expert. Excellent. Of course, I read the Times online because I never want to get my hands dirty. So rummaging through their offline version at Jack's, I quickly realized, something was missing, by far the Times' most compelling column, the daily Los Angeles Homicide Blog, The Los Angeles Homicide Report.

The Los Angeles Times Homicide Report, as morticians say, serves the living, by caring for the dead. The raisond'etre is simple enough, to ensure that no death of any person, at the hand of another goes unreported in the press. It's not the dreary obits, where lives, most often bursting with life, like overstuffed cushions, are recalled with civility, with celebration, with a certain joy at their passing, with words prepared well before the end. The homicide blog isn't like that. The homicide blog instead details the very final moments of lives mostly never known beyond immediate family and a few friends. Less celebrated lives. Lives with few surprises it would seem, except of course, their end.

Woman 53 stabbed at the bus stop at three in the afternoon...

Girl 16 leaving school, white car going by sprays a hail of bullets at some boys she was talking to, pronounced dead at 3.23pm...

9.30am, roofer shot on his ladder three men seen running from the scene.

And on and on.

Sure, people in this town want their five minutes of fame, but if you're yearning for column inches the homicide blog isn't the way to get them. Here is the banality of evil in every abysmal reductive tale. The headcount is staggering. The pointlessness staggering, the state-of-shock responses/comments from family and friends heartbreaking. The blog is subject to the most frequent updates. I am assaulted by the relentlessness of it all. The blog's architect, Los Angeles Times crime reporter Jill Leovy deserves a Pulitzer or whatever they give to bloggers. You wouldn't necessarily think of the LA Times as being radical but in this most important work, they are at their most sadly radical of all time.

One wonders though, just how long it will last. I noticed the other day the link to it had slipped from the front page of the Times' site. The LA tourist board must be beside themselves. And comments from would be tourists make it clear that they think they're reading about an Armageddon on our streets. The world's end. Not recognizing how easy it is for homicide to go unnoticed at home if homicide goes under reported at home. Los Angeles is by all accounts one of the least deadly of all of America's major metropolitan centers. It feels like it if you live here, and while the killing is relatively random, you can check the interactive map to see whether it encroaches on your home turf.

For the cops and the killers and everyone else in the murder business, for the families of the departed, the Los Angeles Times Homicide Blog is a step towards justice. There's never any justice for the victims.

Every town should have one.

You can view the Los Angeles Times Homicide Report Here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/homicidereport/

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