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David Shaw, Media Critic, Dead At 62

The LA Times, appropriately, devotes enormous space to the death of the most important media critic of the past 30 years.

Given by his superiors enormous time, independence and resources, Shaw published important essays on the news media's bungled coverage of abortion and of the bogus McMartin Pre-School sex scandals (no one was convicted despite years of hysterical charges).

But David Shaw was no saint (neither journalistically nor humanly).

Why are obituaries in American newspapers overwhelmingly eulogies?

About 95% of the LA Times obituary of Shaw is a hagiography. Why not evaluate someone in death the same way you'd evaluate someone in life?

David Shaw had as many flaws as virtues. For all his important work, he turned out a tremendous amount of junk (I'm unaware of anything ground-breaking he did in his last eight years). His series on The LA Times profit-sharing deal with the Staples Center didn't break ground and was decidedly soft on those in power (as was typical of his reporting on his own paper). His four-part series on Hollywood journalism (circa 1999) was a complete waste. His weekly media columns the past couple of years were similarly useless (they were easy targets for bloggers). He had no skill with his food and wine columns. Many of them were ludicrous.

I never met David Shaw. I exchanged some emails with him in late 2002. When I was friendly, he replied briefly. When I asked him tough questions, he didn't.

I've read a lot of nasty remarks about David Shaw over the past few years (Rick Barrs in New Times Los Angeles, and Matt Welch and Ken Layne on LAExaminer.com). I'm sure many people gave David an earful in person. To the best of my knowledge, he never returned the vitriol. He never attacked people personally, and always strove to keep dialogue on a high plane.