writes on www.laobserved.com 2/19/04:
Associate Editor Frank del Olmo suffered an apparent heart attack in
the L.A. Times offices this morning and has died. Frank had been a member
of the staff for more than 30 years as a reporter, columnist, editorial
writer and editor.
Frank shared in a Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Meritorious Public
Service awarded to the paper for a 1984 series, "Southern California's
Latino Community." He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1987-88. He
served on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the
California Chicano News Media Association, a group he helped start.
The Los Angeles Times obituary:
Times Editor Was a Voice for Latinos
Times Editor John Carroll praised Del Olmo as someone who was "known
nationally as an accomplished journalist who always had time to help
a colleague get a foot on the ladder."
"The number of Latino journalists who hold good jobs today because
of Frank is beyond calculation," Carroll said. "Here at the paper he
will be remembered with respect and affection. For the staff, this has
been a shattering day."
During his nearly 34 years at The Times, he was an intern, a staff
writer specializing in Latino issues and Latin American affairs, an
editorial writer, deputy editor of the editorial page, a Times-Mirror
Foundation director and an assistant to the editor of The Times. The
last position put him on the masthead — the first Latino to be listed
among the paper's top editors.
"It was important that his name was on the masthead … not just as a
symbol but because of what he was doing," said Felix Gutierrez, a visiting
professor of journalism at USC and longtime Del Olmo friend.
"He was always representing those who couldn't get in the room." Del
Olmo was named associate editor of the newspaper in 1998, continuing
his efforts to advocate for Latinos and Latino journalists.
"He fought quiet but effective battles inside the paper and out when
he felt the Latino community was being wronged or ignored," said Hector
Tobar, a Times correspondent in Buenos Aires who had known Del Olmo
"There are few Latino reporters who have worked at The Times over the
past 20 years who are not indebted to him in one way or another."
Another colleague, Oscar Garza, deputy editor of the Los Angeles Times
Magazine, said that when he was studying journalism at the University
of Texas in the mid-1970s, an organization of Chicano communications
students held a conference, "and it was a big deal, even then, that
Frank came out to speak to us."
"We knew how rare it was for a Chicano journalist to be working at
a place like the L.A. Times," Garza said.
In 1998, Del Olmo was selected to lead the Latino Initiative, a newspaperwide
effort to increase and improve coverage of Southern California's largest
Frank Sotomayor, a Times colleague who was co-editor of the Pulitzer-winning
Latino series and had planned to have lunch Thursday with Del Olmo to
talk about Latino news coverage, said, "Until the very end, he was dedicated
to covering the Latino community better."
State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) said Del Olmo "was
more than an editor or columnist; he was a powerful pioneering voice
for Latinos, for immigrants and the less fortunate."
As a columnist since 1980, Del Olmo wrote on a wide range of topics,
from immigration to baseball. A private and kind man who was courtly
in his manner, Del Olmo was known especially for his principled stands
on issues affecting Latinos.
"Frank was the Latino conscience at that paper," said Julio Moran,
executive director of the California Chicano News Media Assn. and a
former Times reporter.
In 1994, when the newspaper endorsed Gov. Pete Wilson for a second
term in office, Del Olmo threatened to resign, citing Wilson's support
for Proposition 187, which was aimed at illegal immigrants. According
to a Times spokesperson at the time, then-Editor Shelby Coffey III persuaded
Del Olmo to take two weeks off and "think about it."
Del Olmo did, and instead of quitting he wrote a strongly worded op-ed
piece in dissent, excoriating Wilson and calling Proposition 187 "the
mean-spirited and unconstitutional ballot initiative that would deprive
'apparent illegal aliens' of public health services and immigrant children
of public education."
"Wilson's pro-187 campaign will stick in our craws for generations,"
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles
said he had many discussions about Proposition 187 with Del Olmo.
"He assisted me in helping our Catholic community understand how pernicious
this measure really was," Mahony said. "He helped me in drafting my
own opposition to this clearly discriminatory initiative."
More recently, in the city of Maywood last year, Del Olmo's commentaries
had a strong impact when he aired activists' concerns about a city policy
to impound cars of people with suspended licenses. Many of those who
lost their cars were poor immigrants. Leaders eventually discontinued
the practice, which activists believed benefited the city's official
tow company at the expense of vulnerable people.
"He turned the whole thing around," Felipe Aguirre, legal coordinator
of Comite Pro-Uno, a local nonprofit group, said of Del Olmo. "He says
it was us, but I say it was him."
Del Olmo, a Mexican American, also decried the use of "Hispanics" to
describe U.S. residents of Latin American extraction. "Ugly and imprecise,"
he proclaimed, calling the word "bureaucratese."
"In all my years of living and working in Latino communities," he wrote
in 1981, "I have never heard a Latino refer to himself as a Hispanic."
Jay T. Harris, a professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication
and former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, said Del Olmo "was
a tireless and effective advocate — nationally as well as locally —
for the proposition that journalism is best that covers its entire community
fully and fairly: people of color as well as Anglos, the poor as well
as the rich."
Del Olmo's last column for The Times on Feb. 8 asked the question,
"So who is more likely to get Latino voter support in November: a former
National Guard flyboy from Texas or a former Navy officer from Massachusetts?"
Besides his wife and son, Del Olmo is survived by a daughter, Valentina
Marisol del Olmo; three sisters, Elisa Garcia, Teri Previtire and Margaret
Maldonado; a brother, Gabriel Garcia; three nephews; and a niece. All
reside in the Los Angeles area.
Castro writes on LAIndependent.com about his friend Frank del Olmo.
Latino Icon Frank del Olmo Dies
In February's The 8 Ball, the monthly newsletter
of the Los Angeles Press Club, a good friend of Frank's writes:
By Bob Baker of The Los Angeles Times:
Frank del Olmo, a Los Angeles Times associate editor and columnist
who became an icon to Latino journalists during nearly 34 years at the
newspaper, died of an apparent heart attack at his desk on Feb. 19.
He was 55.
Del Olmo was a quiet, intellectual journalist who carried on the mantle
of a more flamboyant crusader of an earlier era, Time columnist Ruben
Salazar. But he had a greater impact because of the decades as a reporter,
editor and columnist. Raised in Los Angeles, del Olmo spanned a half
century in which Latinos rose from discrimination and invisibility to
the leading demographic group in the region. His ability to bring historical
and social perspectives to his writing made him one of the most insightful
Latino journalists in the world.
I wanted to hurl when I saw that the LA Press Club was doing a tribute
for Salieri. Couldn't believe Baker's suck up to the dead in the 8-ball.
Some major inaccuracies, too. Reported that Del Olmo had been a foreign
correspendent, which he wasn't. His trips to Central America had been
special assignments while he'd been on the Metro Staff or on the Editorial
Staff. Reported that he had overtaken Ruben Salazar in his reporting,
which also is untrue. Before he began his controversial column at the
Times, Ruben had spent several years covering the war in Vietnam as
a reporter for the Times, plus numerous other years covering other hard
news for the Times. Ruben was meat; Del Olmo meat loaf. Then there was
the quote from sad-sack shill Felix Gutierrez about Del Olmo being the
first Latino to ascend to the heights of journalism or some crap like
that. Before Geraldo was Geraldo, he was an outrageously good journalist,
who broke some major stories in New York City and had an impact on righting
wrongs in the state homes for neglected children. There was a reporter
named Carlos Conde from Texas, a friend of Salazar's who in the mid-1960s
won several national awards for his coverage of migrants in South Texas.
So why this big memorial for Del Olmo? I mean, I used to attend the
LAPress Club awards dinner and never saw his ass at any of them. I used
to hang out at the old Press Club on Vermont, often closing down the
bar there, and never saw him there or could get him down there. Was
he himself ever a member?
Bob Baker emails
Luke from the LA Times:
two points to mister xxx:
1. hey, motherfucker, the guy is DEAD.
2.call me one of these days and use your fucking name. what a fucking
Bob Baker once served as the writing coach of the LA Times. He published
the book Newsthinking where
he tells journalists how to do their job. It's a shame that more reporters
don't follow his style of concise prose, shorn of all bourgeois hangups
about civility and capitalization.
I believe that all of us in the news business can learn from the way
Bob Baker welcomes factual corrections.
Before I published Bob's email, I called him to discuss this matter.
He couldn't be bothered to return my call.
I don't believe that novelist Gabriel Marcia Marquez volunteered that
gushing praise of del Olmo in the L.A. Times articleon del Olmo's death?
I believe that Gabriel was only slightly acquainted with del Olmo, but
The L.A. Times presented Frank's death to Marquez as the passing of a
journalistic icon and thus received a gushing quote.
Harvard's Spring 2005 Nieman Notes, Frank O. Sotomayor wrote:
Frank's friend of many years, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a former
reporter, wrote that he wished he "hadn't read the news of Thursday,
February 19: Frank del Olmo was dead and no disclaimer or correction
was possible. Those of us who are born journalists discover early in
our lives, and often against our will, that our craft is not just a
calling, a fate, a need or a job, it is something we can't avoid: it
is a vice among friends."
Olmo: Guiding Light in Chicano Journalism Passes Away
El Tecolote, Commentary, By
Félix Gutiérrez, Feb 25, 2004
While Frank del Olmo’s recent obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle
correctly identified him as the Los Angeles Times’ beloved associate
editor and columnist, those who knew him before he joined the Times
in 1970 never forgot his beginnings in Chicano alternative journalism.
And neither did he.
Del Olmo died Feb. 19 at the age of 55. His movement media roots helped
guide him in his role as a founder of the California Chicano News Media
Association in 1972 and chair of the first national meeting of Latino
journalists in 1982, paving the way for the formation of the National
Association of Hispanic Journalists.
In 1984 he shared a Pulitzer Prize for a Los Angeles Times series on
Southern California Latinos. He was Nieman Fellow at Harvard University
in 1987-88 and inducted in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists
Hall of Fame in 2002.
Though del Olmo reached the pinnacles of journalistic success at one
of the nation’s most respected newspapers, he never forgot the importance
of ethnic community journalists in reporting on issues and people too
often overlooked by the so-called “mainstream” media.
The skills he learned working with and advocating Chicano media in
the 1960s set the stage for the hard-hitting reporting and incisive
analysis later in his career.
Del Olmo was a contemporary of El Tecolote founder Juan Gonzales during
campus struggles for equal educational opportunities for La Raza in
the 1960s. Both launched Chicano newspapers. Frank’s was El Popo at
California State University Northridge. And both were Chicano media
activists bringing movement journalists together.
A term paper on the Chicano Press Association that Frank wrote as a
college senior was published in the Society of Professional Journalists’
national magazine and later reprinted in a college textbook. Through
these writings others became aware of the importance of alternative
In the late 1990s the Los Angeles Times asked del Olmo to help lead
a new Latino initiative to improve coverage of communities the newspaper
had too long portrayed as outsiders of their desired readership.
In addition to bringing more Latinas and Latinos on staff, the highly-lauded
initiative put the wide range of Latino interests and activities into
sports, business, entertainment, religion, food and other newspapers
sections where ethnic communities are often ignored.
As member of the Times’ editorial board since the 1980s, del Olmo was
the “insider’s outsider” and the “outsider’s insider”. To executives
inside the highest levels of journalism, he added insights and perspectives
of people and communities beyond their own experiences. And to those
outside big time journalism he served as a voice and force to help them
understand how media can and should work when all voices are expressed
Félix Gutiérrez is a visiting professor of journalism at the Annenberg
School for Communication at the University of Southern California.
George Ramos writes on LAObserved.com: "i had no closer friend at
the times than frank del olmo. i tried to mirror his relentless advocacy
for latino issues and for fair treatment of latinos in the pages of the
times. where i failed, he succeeded because was a quiet leader who commandered
respect from everyone he came in contact with. i will miss him because
he had a very calming view of a controversy or a personal dilemma. there
aren't enough 'gente' like him around in journalism today."
Dennis Romero writes LAObserved.com:
Frank, along with others such as Ramos and Ruben Salazar, comprise
the bedrock of Chicano journalism. They opened the doors of elite media
outlets for the next generation.
Frank was quiet and professional, but his actions spoke clearly. Those
of us on the street-level of the business were so proud to have someone
representing on the Times' masthead. Latinos working in local newsrooms,
and those who care about diversity in the news media, owe him thanks.
Luke Ford writes:
It's a shame, George Ramos, that Frank did not also teach you how to
use capital letters.
How come it is wonderful that Frank del Olmo dedicated himself to advancing
the interests of his race while if a white person at the Times or any
American news media organization did the same thing for his race, he'd
be drummed out of his job? Why is Latino advocacy in journalism any
better than advocacy for white people?
It is sickening to see everybody falling over each other to applaud
Luke writes satirically:
Frank White, LAT
Editor Was 55
Associate Editor Frank White suffered an apparent heart attack in the
L.A. Times offices this morning and has died. Frank had been a member
of the staff for more than 30 years as a reporter, columnist, editorial
writer and editor.
Frank shared in a Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Meritorious Public
Service awarded to the paper for a 1984 series, "Southern California's
White Community." He served on the California White News Media Association,
a group he helped start.
The obituary by Claudia Luther on the Times website calls White "a
major voice for caucasians in Southern California."
The Los Angeles Times:
"The number of white journalists who hold good jobs today because
of Frank is beyond calculation," Carroll said.
"He fought quiet but effective battles inside the paper and out when
he felt the white power community was being wronged or ignored," said
John Brown, a Times correspondent in Iowa who had known Del Olmo 16
years. "There are few caucasian reporters who have worked at The Times
over the past 20 years who are not indebted to him in one way or another."
Another colleague, Jack Jones, deputy editor of the Los Angeles Times
Magazine, said that when he was studying journalism at the University
of Texas in the mid-1970s, an organization of white communications
students held a conference, "and it was a big deal, even then, that
Frank came out to speak to us." "We knew how rare it was for a white
power journalist to be working at a place like the L.A. Times," Jones
In 1998, White was selected to lead the Caucasian Initiative, a newspaperwide
effort to increase and improve coverage of Southern California's largest
"Frank was the white conscience at that paper," said Julio Moran,
executive director of the California White News Media Assn. and a
former Times reporter.
David writes LA Observed:
"Clear headed, hard working. His every action commanded respect.
He was also savvy about how to open the eyes of others to issues they
would prefer not to see."
George writes: "i had no closer friend at the times than frank
white. i just wished he would've taught me how to use capital letters.
i tried to mirror his relentless advocacy for white issues and for
fair treatment of caucasian activists in the pages of the times. where
i failed, he succeeded because was a quiet leader who commandered
respect from everyone he came in contact with. i will miss him because
he had a very calming view of a controversy or a personal dilemma.
there aren't enough white men with pride like him around in journalism
Dennis writes: "Frank, along with others such as David Duke
and William Pierce, comprise the bedrock of caucasian journalism.
They opened the doors of elite media outlets for the next generation
of white supremacists. Frank was quiet and professional, but his actions
spoke clearly. Those of us on the street-level of the business were
so proud to have someone representing on the Times' masthead. White
supremacists working in local newsrooms, and those who care about
diversity in the news media, owe him thanks."
Matt Welch writes:
Dear Luke, That's a real class act there, calling the mourning of Del
Olmo "sickening" right to the face of his grieving friends. If you died
tomorrow, and I mourn the loss (which I would), would that also be "sickening,"
considering your weird obsessions about race (ones which could just
as easily be described as "racialist")? The line between being a freely-speaking
controversialist and a rude asshole is admittedly blurry, and I usually
err on the side of the controversialism (especially yours), but in this
case you're just rubbing dirt and salt in the open wounds of people
who are mourning. That is some gratuitously cruel and indecent behavior.
Luke replies: The primary basis for the accolades for the man in the
Times and on LA Observed was that
he worked tirelessly to promote the interests of his race and that he
promoted race-based Latino journalist organizations. Therefore, I attacked
those race-based accolades on their own basis. I would use an example
of a white person in the media who has devoted his professional life to
advancing the cause of the white race but I can think of nobody. I don't
know of anybody who creates white-based journalist organizations and I
would not mourn somebody who made that the obsession of his professional
I do have an interest in race but I've never made it my professional
obsession. I haven't fought to advance whites professionally solely on
the basis of their skin color as del Olmo's friends allege he did. I haven't
created organizations for whites to promote their racial interest. That's
exactly what Frank was all about, according to the tributes on LA
Observed and in the LAT's obituary. That's precisely what his "friends"
mourned him for. If they are misrepresenting his life as one of racial
obsession, that is their calumny, not mine. Sorry if a painful truth sometimes
make people feel uncomfortable.
I do no work on behalf of my race. I have never done any work on behalf
of my race. I have never joined any race-based organization and I have
never considered starting one. I have never treated anyone badly based
on their race.
If anyone praised me in the race-based ways del Olmo was venerated, I
would be appalled.
If, after my death, obituaries and purported "friends" made
their primary praise for me a racial matter of my working to advance the
cause of whites, I hope someone would rip to shreds on this issue my race-obsessed
"friends," even if it made my "friends" feel bad,
and even if it offended some notions of etiquette.
Don't ever expect me to ever treat respectfully outpourings of feeling
that are primarily about race, as are the ones over del Olmo. Would you
respect it if someone wrote after the death of a white person that he
"toiled tirelessly to advance the interests of his [white] people"?
According to his "friends," Frank del Olmo was the equivalent
of a modern member of the Klu Klux Klan (which, to be the best of my knowledge,
no longer commits criminal acts of violence). If David Duke were to die,
would you urge a similar moratorium on publishing hurtful? According to
del Olmo's friends on LAObserved and in the LA Times, Frank and David
had similar levels of racial obsession.
was active in the Latino activist group MECHa during his 1960s college
days and supported it his entire life as this 2003 column in the LA Times
Matt, the only reason I can think of that you respect race-based tributes
to Frank del Olmo is that he and the people praising him are primarily
Latino, and you Matt Welch, don't expect much morally from Latinos, just
like you don't expect much from blacks. That you are not appalled by these
race-based paens reveals something about you and your lowered expectations
for the darker-skinned peoples. I, by contrast, hold them accountable
to the same moral standard I apply to the rest of humanity.
Does anyone for a second believe that Frank del Olmo would have won as
many prizes from his journalistic peers if he had been a Republican? Does
anyone think for a second that he would've advanced as high at the LA
Times if he had been white?
Tony Castro writes (in response to my initial post on LA
Dear Luke, I may be one of the few journalists in town who happen to
have been born Latino who both appreciates your comments on Frank Del
Olmo -- and agrees with them. Frank thought I was a rogue in more ways
than the obvious, and he was probably right. But our main parting of
the ways, which came when I moved to LA in 1978 to write a column for
Jim Bellows at the old Herald Examiner, was that I declined to join
his organization, the California Chicano News Media Assn. It wasn't
my thing. I didn't see myself as a Latino journalist, no matter how
someone else looked at me. I saw myself as a journalist, albeit, lousy
journalist, mediocre journalist, whatever, but a journalist. That's
an entirely separate piece all its own. I just wanted to tell you that
you make a good point.
Matt Welch writes:
* There are journalists and organizations dedicated to advancing (or
furthering, or protecting) the white race. For instance VDare (http://vdare.com/),
named after the first white girl born in the American colonies, Virginia
Dare (http://vdare.com/why_vdare.htm). The site includes at least one
quality journalist (Steve Sailer), is focused like a laser beam on immigration,
and you may agree with much of it. As much as I disagree with the site,
I am glad that it exists, and in any case would not jump at the opportunity
to offend the friends of its writers should one of them suffer an untimely
fate. Also -- is it me, or do I recall some concern on your part about
having lots of children in order to increase the world's supply of Jews?
* The biggest reason there are more minority organizations than overt
white organizations is because whites have always had more power in
this city, state and country, and often deliberately excluded non-whites
(and Jews) from their institutions. Latinos were forbidden from buying
houses in Los Feliz during a nasty stretch of the 1940s. Same for Jews
in my hometown neighborhood after WWII. Del Olmo was the first Latino
to become senior editor at the L.A. Times, despite Los Angeles always
having a large Latino population. One reason there were no Latinos before
is that some of the paper's executives had been racists. Given this
history, it strikes me as perfectly understandable that such support
groups would spring up, regardless of what I personally may think about
cultural or racial background forming the basis of a social organization.
* You write:
The primary basis for the accolades for the man in the Times and
on LA Observed was that he worked tirelessly to promote the interests
of his race and that he promoted race-based Latino journalist organizations
That is a lie. Neither the Times obit nor the LA Observed comments
used the word "race" once, which is apt, since there is no "Latino"
race I'm aware of. Only three of the seven accolades in the LA Observed
comments even mentioned the word "Latino," by my count. Yes, he did
focus on Latino affairs, and dedicate himself to Latino journalism organizations.
I don't think that means that the mourning for him is "sickening"; in
fact, I'd argue that the only thing "sickening" is the thought of you
congratulating yourself for speaking the "painful truth," like some
kind of moral hero, when in fact you're just acting like an asshole.
* You write:
Matt, the reason you respect race-based tributes to Frank del Olmo
is that he and the people praising him are primarily Latino, and you
Matt Welch, don't expect much morally from Latinos, just like you
don't expect much from blacks. That you are not appalled by these
race-based paens reveals something about you and your lowered expectations
for the darker-skinned peoples. I, by contrast, hold them accountable
to the same moral standard I apply to the rest of humanity.
You don't have the slightest idea of what you're talking about. It
says something about the low quality of someone's argument when they
resort to inventing motivations they can't possibly know. The only thing
I "expect" from anybody is decency, and in both your comments at LA
Observed, and your clumsy insults against me here, you have once again
shown an utter lack of exactly that.
* VDare.com. It is a website catering to a minority interest, not a $120
million a year editorial operation such as The LA Times. Del Olmo's friends
portray him as an ethnic advocate masquerading as a reporter and editor.
If a white person did this at a major mainstream media venue, he'd be
I've spent less than an hour in my life reading VDare.com. I find it
thought-provoking. Nothing I've read on it is as explicitly obsessed with
ethnicity and race as the testimonials for del Olmo. I've read nothing
on it praising people who create organizations to advance white interests.
But if it is as you say, a website primarily about the promotion of the
white race, then I would be embarrassed for that to be the primary thing
people laud me for at my death.
* Jews are not a race. Yes, I want more Jews. Jews are composed of every
single race - black, brown, white, yellow. Jews are a people defined by
a religion -- you are a Jew if you are born of a Jewish mother or if you
convert to the religion. Still, if the first Jewish editor of The LA Times
died, and the primary thing people would praise him about was his tireless
advocacy for Jewish interests and Jewish journalists in the paper and
outside it, I would find that embarrassing. If del Olmo worked for a Latino
paper all his life, then I would not find it weird for people to primarily
laud him for his Latino-advocacy.
* Just because Jews were persecuted two generations ago does not motivate
me or any Jew I know to agitate as del Almo apparently did, according
to his "friends," for affirmative action to favor Jews.
* The accolades for del Almo primarily revolve around his advocacy of
Latinos or hispanics or chicanos or whatever you want to call the people
who come from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, many of them
illegally. I never attacked del Almo. I attacked as "sickening"
the race-based adulation given him on LAObserved. Just because the testifiers
do not use the word "race" does not mean that they are not obsessed
with it. Their testimonials sound like MECHA -- "all for the race."
I think such racial obsession is sickening when it is the primary thing
you laud a person for but such racism apparently does not bother Matt
Welch as long as it is the darker-skinned who practice it.
Matt can spot the racial obsession on VDare even though it's not phrased
as baldly as it is in the del Olmo testimonials.
Luke, Matt is absolutely right, and said what I should have said to
you yesterday when I saw your "Frank White" stuff but wanted to give
myself a chance to cool down about it. You can point out anything you
like about whether it is or is not appropriate to laud a journalist
for promoting ethnic issues, BUT NOT ON THE DAY THE MAN DIED! Not the
day after either, and not the week after. And certainly not on the day
the man died prematurely, in his office, leaving shocked colleagues
and a wife and autistic son. It is indeed indecent. It does indeed make
you look like an asshole. There is no excuse for it whatsoever, and
that's why I haven't written about the party last night yet...because
as long as that Del Olmo stuff is up on your site you will get no linky-love
And no, you cannot dismiss this one with a sarcastic "Cathy, you're
right." Dennis Prager and every single rabbi who's ever kicked you out
of a shul (or let you stay in) would agree that Matt and I are right.
If I were you, I'd apologize on L.A. Observed and take all the Del Olmo
stuff down right now.
Stomping The Dead
Recently-deceased local Times editor Frank Del Olmo was little
more than a name I saw on the masthead. But the outpouring
of grief from those who knew him suggest he may have been a decent guy.
Luke Ford on the other hand, I've met and the nicest I can say is he's
an interesting specimen. Between charming--and then pissing off
everyone that meets him--the proprietor of his eponymous site has managed
to gain a cult following thanks to his jaw-dropping mix of offensive
rants, interviews and characters of questionable reality.
But somehow Del Olmo and Ford has managed to get me to pay attention
to them both. How? Thank Ford, who had the audacity to comment at his
other hangout, the comments pages of LAObserved that the memoriams for
Del Olmo were "sickening."
Dare we ask why? Might as well. As far as Ford is concerned, the well-wishers
were giving Del Olmo plaudits for being little more than a "racialist"
who dedicated his career to advancing Latinos, something for which a
White person would be given the bum's rush. Ford later stomps on Del
Olmo's funeral flowers some more on his Web site, wondering whether
Del Olmo would have climbed the Times' bureaucratic ranks if not for
his role advocating Latino advancement in the press.
This didn't exactly win Ford praise from either Reason's Matt
Welch or Cathy Seipp, who has feted Ford even when others would run
for the hills. While Seipp demanded that Luke Vicious apologize for
his statements lest he lose her "linky-love," Welch took a chunk out
of the "a------" for being "gratuitously cruel and indecent" and for
making arguments of "low quality."
Low quality is an apt description for some of his provocative statements;
his comments on race are particularly offensive to anyone save such
intelligent bigots such as VDare's Paul Craig Roberts. Ford in this
case, could have used a lot more tact in his arguments. After all, Del
Olmo wasn't exactly a tyrant a la Abe Rosenthal. I'm still wondering
whether Tony Castro even wrote the e-mail that appears on Ford's site.
But despite this, Welch and Seipp interpreted Ford's tirade wrongly.
Why? Because they have almost no appreciation for a form of polemic
with which the average Brit would be familiar: The Fleet Street obit.
So what Ford's comments about Del Olmo were provocative bordering on
rude. Perhaps it's time we stop being overly polite about the deceased
and comment about them as they were. This doesn't mean they weren't
ultimately good--or bad--people. Just real.
Read the rest of Rishawn's thoughtful essay here.
Luke Turns His Lonely Eyes To Chaim
You keep making my job more difficult by attacking the recently departed,
dead who leave behind many friends, you make it hard to sell Luke Ford.
Heart-broken Chaim, unlucky in love, counsels Luke to say the following
in his own words:
I was right to take issue with the positions advanced by the late Frank
del Olmo, and wrong - very, very wrong - to choose the occasion of his
early death to state them. This looks like, and is, a low blow, a late
hit that can never be answered, which it in fact is.
My appologies to his family, his colleagues, and all who knew him who
certainly did not need to encounter my first pronouncement on this man's
life work in the days immediately following his death.
I want you to know that I know that I am an imperfect man, on many
levels, and am doing what I can to become a better man. I am in therapy.
I take drugs to modify my behavior to others. I listen very carefully
to what others, like CHAIM AMALEK, tell me to write (in fact these are
his words, dear reader), because I know that where I am (can't think
of the word), Chaim is as steady as a (ditto).
Why Are We Supposed To Only Speak Well Of The Dead?
I would never approach a mourner and speak ill of the person he was mourning,
but I don't see why a writer should be morally obliged to only speak well
of the dead. Sure, criticisms of the dead might hurt the feelings of some
mourners, but so what? Since when does a writer have to hold back because
it might hurt somebody's feelings? We don't hold this standard with regard
to other public figures in other situations so why in death?
It bestows no benefit on the deceased to only praise him. This is a weird
American custom to not speak ill of the dead.
Prior to Thursday's racially-obsessed tributes to LAT's editor Frank
del Olmo, I had never heard of the man.
When I read his obituary on LAObserved.com, in the LA Times, and in the
comments to LAObserved.com, I felt strange. I felt excluded because all
the specific praise for the man was based on his activism for Latinos.
If he worked for a primarily Latino news outlet, this would have caused
no surprise in me. It was precisely because he worked for a mainstream
journalistic outlet that it saddened me that such racial activism in a
journalist was honored across the board, and nobody was speaking up that
something was wrong.
I just thought it was very wrong to honor such race-based activism when
we would never laud a caucasian advocate of the caucasian race. I thought
it was strange that the only concrete accomplishment that del Olmo's "friends"
could point to was his tireless dedication to Latino affairs. They make
it seem that del Olmo was an ethnic advocate in disguise as a purported
journalist and editor.
I know nothing about Frank del Olmo. I only know the racial obsession
of his purported friends. And I don't think it is good for journalism
and good for America. And I don't think that dedicating oneself to an
ethnic group rather than a value system is good.
What's A Racialist?
Kevin from New York writes:
What on earth does racialist mean? Assuming it is a real English word,
how does it differ from racist? Let me presume, we call blacks and spanish
(yes spanish, when I grew up we called puerto ricans and other swarthy
south americans spanish) racialist because it seems less or more (I
don't know) dammning than racist. Whites are racist, the coloreds ("people
of color", "colored people"?) are racialist.
Racialist is like that other invented word: "reverse discrimination."
Whites discriminate, coloreds "reverse-discriminate." Whites are
racist and on the rare occasion colored are "reverse-racist." Then is
it that whites assault and rape colored while coloreds "reverse-assault"
and "reverse-rape" white folk?
Lefties and the craven middle-of-the-road Republicans who control our
media use this vocabulary because really they do believe that the coloreds
are less capable of managing themselves in a modern society -- they
are less intelligent and therefore should not be held to the same standards
of behaviour as a white woman, these watered-down concepts are less
damning in their guilt-ridden eyes. I know, I don't appreciate "nuance."
Luke, since you abandoned your quest to catalog the evil and stupidity
of the California flesh entertainment trade, and have embarked on a
new career as a wholesome family-oriented blogger you must take care
of the tools of your trade: words.
You are a word-smith. I really do appreciate the clarity and humour
of your prose. It is refreshing. Clear writing leads to clear thinking,
and the other way too. There really aren't that many ambiguities in
life. So why did you have to go and ruin my day by offering an oblique
apology in your response to that fella Welch. Your insecurities force
themselves through when you start using slippery language like racialist.
Be clear and forthright.
Luke says: I went to dictionary.com and found these definitions:
racialism. n. An emphasis on race or racial considerations, as in determining
policy or interpreting events. Policy or practice based on racial considerations.
Chiefly British. Variant of racism.
racialist. n: a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior
to others [syn: racist]
El Shaddai writes:
My friend Luke, I've just been reading about the del Olmo controversy.
I agree with 80% of what you wrote, which is good enough for me. Seriously.
You were not being an "asshole." Death is an unavoidable fact of human
existence. I think that irreligious people are especially sensitive--often
hysterically so--about this issue.
Moreover, the conditional empathy and racial double standards of people
like Matt Welch are simply appalling. I challenge any one of your critics
to type the words "Wichita Massacre" into Google and see what they find.
American journalists shed their tears selectively indeed. The death
of a crusading left-wing journalist "of color" is considered to be extraordinarily
And these arrogant, navel-gazing narcissists wonder why journalists
are so disliked by ordinary people!
I made some calls to people who know Latino journalism. Nobody can remember
the last story del Olmo broke. Nobody can remember the last interesting
column he wrote (with the possible exception of the one on his son's health
problems). Frank wrote regular columns for the Times for more than 20
years and virtually every one centered on Latino issues. He had little
to say beyond his own ethnic obsession.
Frank del Olmo was essentially a Latino figurehead that the Times trotted
around town to various civic events to make the paper look multi-cultural
and diverse. He didn't actually do anything aside from run a Mexican Mafia
in the paper that had veto power over new Latino journalist hires. Only
those who suited Frank and the gang got hired. That meant a certain grace
with clothing and manner, a left-of-center political ideology, and a shared
obsession with Latino activism.
There's an even stronger Black Mafia at the Times that has veto power
over the hire of new black reporters. They also must share the ideology
and style of the ruling powers.
The Times has been obsessed with race and political correctness and sanitizing
the misdeeds of the darker-skinned people since the 1991 riots.
For a long time, Janet Clayton served as the opinion page editor. She's
dull with few opinions. But she's black and female and the Times wanted
to advance minorities and so she fit the bill in those two key respects,
plus she shared a certain quality with Frank -- not dribbling down the
chin while talking.
On Frank del Olmo And
The Mexican Mafia At The LA Times
I call writer Tony Castro back
Monday afternoon, February 23, while he's at work for the LAIndependent.com.
We chat about Frank del Olmo and his journalistic legacy.
Tony: "None of his disciples have produced anything. I don't know
if that's telling or what."
Luke: "I'd never heard of him before his obituary came out."
Frank: "Maybe Frank will be remembered not for things he did as
a journalist, but as a Latino journalist."
Luke: "It seemed strange to me that all the specific compliments
given to Frank on his passing were for Latino activism."
Tony: "The last 20 years, he didn't do a great deal of reporting.
When I came here in 1978, he was writing a weekly opinion piece. Even
the time he spent in El Salvador, was not where you could point to this
story or that story as being on the news pages.
"You wouldn't have noticed him for his reporting and his op/ed pieces
were dry and uncontroversial and not very moving until he started writing
about little boy [with autism].
"When Frank was a young reporter, there may not have been more than
one or two Spanish-surnamed reporters on the staff. And those that were
there, were probably doing features, like Al Martinez.
"Frank ended up bringing in George Ramos and some of the other Spanish
reporters on the staff."
Luke: "So what did he do the last 20 years except write his column?"
Tony: "He advised the paper. He was in editorial board meetings.
He wrote editorials in the early '80s under Janet Clayton. For a long
time, he had an odd title, assistant to the publisher. That changed to
"At the Times, even some of its premiere reporters don't do a lot.
You have people who have the luxury of spending weeks on a story."
Luke: "What was the quality of your friendship with him?"
Tony: "It's not like I have a lot of quality friends around me.
I have sportswriter friends but in the news media, only a handful of friends.
Frank and I would talk regularly. A lot of his work the past 20 years
was ceremonial. You would see Frank at numerous activities but you may
not see anything come out of that. I don't want to say that he was [figurehead
for] community representation for the Times, but he was. He became highly
visible at various media, community, functions. You wouldn't see copy
coming out of that.
"Frank and his wife along with other Latino power couples put together
Fund, which I did not know existed until a few months ago. He was
involved with a group called Hispanics for the Opera and the Dorthy Chandler
I have to go off to another interview but I call Tony back in an hour.
Tony: "Luke, of all things, we were just sitting here with another
reporter talking about the Chicano News Media Association."
Luke: "You've never been a member?"
Tony: "They probably wouldn't have me."
Luke: "Have you ever joined an ethnic-based news organization?"
Luke: "Why not?"
Tony: "I don't know. I didn't grow up in an environment that fostered
that kind of thing. I wasn't a fraternity man. The only thing I've been
a member of is the Roman Catholic church, and that may not have been by
Luke: "What is your precise ethnic heritage?"
Tony: "My family is from Mexico. My dad's side of the family is
from Mexico and my mom's side from Spain."
Luke: "Have you felt as a Latino that you have had to battle prejudice
and bigotry every where you go?"
Tony pauses for almost ten seconds: "No. For me it wasn't quite
like that. Maybe I was sheltered? I'm 57 years old. I was born in 1946.
I grew up in Waco, Texas. In the 1950s, that was right in the heart of
the Bible belt. There weren't a lot of Latinos or African Americans in
Waco. I grew up around poor white kids and a smattering of poor African-American
kids and one or two other Latino kids. I was aware of being Hispanic or
Latin, but I didn't run into the kind of open discrimination that many
other Hispanics have run into. I did the whole middle class number --
Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Little League, Teenage League, everything else
that was going on that you could possibly do. My dad's frame of reference
for his priorities in life was God, family, the Dallas Cowboys, and baseball,
and unfortunately, in the reverse order. There was a great deal of sports
growing up. My dad worked at the big VA hospital. He was one of those
proud Latino WWII veterans.
"The thing that I grew up most aware of was anti-Semitism. One of
my best friends was Jewish and she was always talking to me about this."
Luke: "In your professional life, have you had to constantly battle
bigotry against Latinos?"
Tony: "I've seen it. I've probably made a career, to some degree,
on it, unwittingly. When I graduated from Baylor college in January of
1970 with a degree in journalism, I had dozens of job offers from newspapers
in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. I thought it was just because I was
such a great college journalist. I had no idea that they wanted to hire
me because I happened to have the right surname and speak Spanish. I was
"The grape boycott and the grape strike had gone on... I had read
about them but it was not something that had reached me."
Luke: "Let's say you were in a meeting with four Mexican-Americans,
and your boss came on the speaker phone and said, 'Bring your Mexicans
and come in here.' How would you react?'
Tony laughs. He laughs often and easily. "I would probably not be
Castro writes this requiem for Frank del Olmo in the LAindependent.com:
Once he and another Latino reporter came to me almost in tears upset
that a city editor had become so infuriated with their surprise confrontation
of an executive editor at the paper, that he had called Frank on his
phone extension and demanded that he “round up your Mexicans and get
It may have been Del Olmo's ultimate payback that he was able to successfully
lobby for a special reporting and editing team for a comprehensive series
on Latinos that in 1984 won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize gold medal
for meritorious public service for the Times. When I congratulated him,
I joked that, “Man, Frank, you sure rounded up your Mexicans, didn’t
Tony: "I came to Los Angeles in 1978. This was around 1980. I get
a call from Frank del Olmo and George Ramos (once a reporter, he's now
chair of Cal Poly Pomona's Journalism department). We have lunch. They
tell me this crazy bizarre tale about how they had gotten into trouble
at the Times in a meeting with the new publisher, Tom
Johnson. He headed up LBJ's radio station in Texas and then became
a suit with the LA Times.
"The publisher was invited to a CCNMA (California Chicano News Media
Association, ccnma.org) meeting at La Fonda on Wilshire. Johnson thought
he was going there for a get-together. He gets there and, according to
del Olmo and Ramos, things got out of hand. You had these journalists
rabidly critiquing the Times hiring policies, history, and just bitching
at the publisher. It became such a confrontational thing, it became embarrassing.
"A couple of days later, Johnson talked about it to his brass and
the story got down to the city editor and he calls del Olmo and Ramos.
It was not a happy time. Del Olmo and Ramos contacted me [at the Los Angeles
Herald Examiner] to do their dirty work. They knew I was always looking
for a story. I remember that thing, 'Round up your Mexicans and get in
"Years later, when I recalled that for those guys [Frank and George],
they were uptight about it. You have to go back to the history of Latinos
in Los Angeles. This doesn't emotionally get to me in the way it does
many Latinos because I did not grow up here. I guess the papers in Los
Angeles in the '40s and '50s didn't deal with a number of civil rights
issues in the best of ways. They were insensitive to Latino rights and
not as fair as they could have been. They offended a lot of people, among
them del Olmo's mother. He did a piece on how his mom refused to subscribe
to the LA Times even after he was in the premiere position he was in.
He quotes her saying, 'Mijo, let me know when you've written something
and I will buy it at the newsstand.'
"She was part of that whole generation that felt the news media
in their coverage of the Zoot Suit riots and the Sleepy Lagoon murders...had
unfairly targeted Hispanics."
Luke: "Do you know if del Olmo had any relationship with Alisa
Valdes Rodriguez and her famous flameout where she accused the LA
Times of committing genocide against Latinos?"
Tony: "No. I will tell you this -- every Latino or Latina who has
been hired at the Times has been approved by these guys. There's a reporter
at the Washington Post since 1987, Ruben Castaneda, who grew up in El
Monte, California, and graduated from USC around 1983, a time when the
Times was looking right and left for bilingual Latino journalists with
a knowledge of East Los Angeles. Ruben has no real sins against him except
maybe he's a bad dresser, could never get hired at the LA Times. Ruben
worked at the Herald Examiner for several years, left [six weeks] before
its closing. He's wound up as a reporter of some note at the Washington
Post. He's probably made a number of applications over the years to work
at the LA Times. But he could not get approval from this Mexican Mafia
that included Frank."
[Ruben Castaneda writes Luke: "I don't know anything about the internal
workings of the LA Times. I don't know anything about alleged "racial
mafias." Maybe some current or former LA Times staffers could help you
with that question. I did have a couple of (unpaid) internships at the
LA Times in the early 1980s, one in Metro downtown, one in the San Gabriel
Valley. During both internships I was in college and I also had a paying
job; I concentrated on the work."]
Luke: "I really want to tie Alisa's flameout to Frank."
Tony: "I don't know if you can. Those flameouts happen to people,
sometimes good people. It's sad. She needs to deal with some issues."
Luke: "This Mexican Mafia. They weren't just looking for Latinos,
they were looking for the right kind of Latinos, those Latinos who share
Tony; "The excuse they finally used with Reuben was that he did
not dress very well."
Luke: "Who were the other key members of the Mexican Mafia?"
Tony: "Anybody who worked there who was there for a length of time.
Luke: "Is the LA Times an ethnically balkanized place?"
Tony: "I was told that it was. You have an African American faction
that at one point was stronger than the Latino faction."
Luke: "You said Frank had a love/hate relationship with the Times.
What did he hate about the place?"
Tony: "That whole thing about, 'Bring your Mexicans in.' They were
not happy campers about that. Remember how Frank threatened to walk off
when the Times endorsed Governor Wilson? Frank was not happy when they
canned George Ramos's page two or three column in the mid '90s. It was
a curious choice of this veteran reporter to write this column. I remember
Frank coming to me, 'George is about to lose his job.'
"I remember in the 1970s, Frank and I wondered if we were tokens,
stuck in a little room as a Latino journalist. I was reporting a great
deal on Latino affairs for the Dallas Morning News and for the Washington
Luke: "Was Frank as obsessed with ethnicity as the tributes portray
him? He seemed to be primarily about -- is it good my group."
Tony: "I don't know if it was like that consciously. He had a tremendous
interest and involvement in those things. If you look at his columns from
the time he started writing columns, that is all he ever wrote about.
I don't think you can find a column [that wasn't about Latino concerns].
I think that possibly answers your question about how much of it was ethno-centric."
Luke: "Did he break any big stories?"
Tony: "He might have back in the seventies. He was a columnist and
editorial writer when I came to Los Angeles in 1978."
Luke: "A columnist can break stories."
Tony: "Yeah. I thought his best work were the pieces on his son."
Luke: "Did you read the 1984 series on Latinos that won the Pulitzer
Luke: "Did it contribute anything?"
Tony: "What was most monumental about that series was that the Times
had never devoted that much space concentrated over that period of time
Luke: "Were they breaking stories or were they interminable like
the New York Times series on race a few years ago?"
Tony laughs: "It was in that genre."
Luke: "A series to gain a prize, but it was hard to read."
Luke: "How long do you think we will have this ethnic balkanization
in major American newspapers? Will we grow out of it in another generation?"
Tony: "A couple of generations. I think it will grow worse. What
happened with Jayson Blair has made for some retrenchment of positions...
"I did a column on Frank around 1981 when he was picked as one of
the guest [journalists] on Meet the Press. I think the issue was immigration.
He happened to be the first Latino journalist to appear on that show.
Frank was always living under the shadow of Reuben Salazar but here was
something Reuben had never done. I don't know of too many other Latino
journalists on Meet the Press. I can't think of one. It's not like you
can look at the national political press and say there's one hispanic
journalist who stands out. It's not like we've had a Carl Rowan [late
black journalist on TV news and syndicated columnist]."
Luke: "Do you think Frank and the Mexican Mafia would've hired a
Latino journalist who was a conservative Republican?"
Tony: "Hire is probably the wrong. If you went and asked them, they
would say, 'We have no role in that. Except if someone is interviewing
a potential hiree and comes to us and asks, 'Do you know so and so?''
But the reality is far beyond that. Would too many editors in this country
in a hiring position hire someone who was a conservative Republican?
"When Robert Scheer was a young journalist covering a campaign,
they would look upon him with a particular look because he didn't hide
his leanings. And yet, after hours, he'd find these guys at the pub drinking,
and once they'd had a few drinks in them, they too were pontificating
about what was right and wrong. Scheer says this whole thing about objectivity
in the media is bogus. You have these political reporters who have feelings
that they think they are somehow submerging.
"I don't know too many conservative Republican journalists. Looking
back on my career to the early '70s, I can only think of one. Jim Atkinson
who was a political reporter at the Dallas Times Herald and helped found
D - the magazine of Dallas. He writes for Texas Monthly. I don't know
if he was a conservative, but he was a Republican.
"It used to be that almost any article on Latino issues was written
by a Latino. But the best reporting I can recall on Caesar Chavez was
Aarons, [a white Jew who now teaches at USC]. In the '70s, he was the
West Coast reporter for the Washington Post.
"I published a book in 1974 by Dutton, Chicano Power: The Emergence
of Mexican Americans. One of those books I haven't been able to live down.
It's painted me into this corner. When I did the research for the book,
I found the best stuff was by Roy Aarons.
"He was one of the first journalists, a few years ago, to come out
of the closet.
"There was a group of young journalists who learned a great deal
from him because he traveled throughout the Southwest. I remember meeting
him when he came to Dallas and befriending him. The bottom line is you
don't have to be Latino to do the definitive pieces on Latinos, just like
you don't have to be black to do the definitive pieces on blacks, though
you will get a lot of arguments there. The best quoted tract on American
democracy was something written by a Frenchman [Alexis de Tocqueville,
Democracy in America, 1830s]."
Tony Castro writes:
Luke, You're a good man. Thank you for taking the time and interest
to comment on Del Olmo and to try to present a more rounded view of
the man. I don't think Frank would have been too taken with the almost
martyr-like tone of some of the comments that have been made, but then
that's always what happens when someone dies, especially when the death
is untimely. I think that deep down Frank recognized who he was, what
he could do best and his limitations. I got the feeling when he turned
me down on my offer to help me write "Chicano Power" that he feared
being stuck over his head. I WAS in over my head! That's what Lucy Casado,
the restaurateur, keeps telling me: that Frank was always overly cautious,
didn't take chances and, as a result never produced that "breaking"
story you alluded to.
Sometimes I don't realize how fortunate I was growing up in the environment
that I grew up in -- though the religious conservatism was a bit much.
"Chicano Power" did real well in the mid-1970s. The publisher, Dutton,
made a killing selling it to colleges and universities, which at the
time were adopting ethnic studies and Chicano studies programs and needed
reading materials. Well, the publisher came back and gave me a second
deal with a nice advance to write a book about growing up Chicano, something
like the Marie Arana book of more recent times, I suppose. I wrote a
book that I was very proud of, but the Dutton people turned it down.
They said it wasn't "Chicano enough" and that it read like the growing
up experiences of southern writers like Willie Morris and Larry King.
I guess that WAS the point. I was a southern boy with a similar experience
to other southern boys. Just happened to be Hispanic.
Robert Light writes:
Luke -- Last night I listened to some public radio: "Which Way L.A"
hosted by Warren "Smug, Pompous Twit" Olney. It ran a segment on Frank
del Olmo. (How long before streets named "Via del Olmo"? Better yet:
L.A. Unified School District can use his name to advance further brain-rot:
Another holiday for students! Because it's certainly true that del Olmo
did vastly more to establish life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
among "Latinos" than anything George Washington or Abe Lincoln ever
did). They interviewed a del Olmo comrade, a professor of journalism
at USC. His friend stated quite plainly that del Olmo had been a 60's
radical during college; he stated this with unmistakable insouciance
-- as if no opprobrium ever could attach to it (at least by any sane
person not out of step with "the long march" through the nation's institutions).
But naturally, it wen unmentioned that Mr. del Olmo's "activities" didn't
stop with college! It was here that del Olmo also edited a Latino/Chicano
ethnic-identity (politicized) newspaper. And from this del Olmo transitioned
seamlessly to the L.A. Times. (Oh, the Chandlers really were bigots
and racists after all!).
What's noteworthy about del Olmo (the agenda, more than the man) is
that, by all accounts, he's a consummate epigone of radicalized revolt
against reason which, like a cancer, plagues the Western civilization.
(And, if anything, will be its downfall). He represents the oh so grave
importance of "authenticity." Being "authentic" means finding meaning
(commitment) in, basically, the sub-rational: one's culture, language,
Bodenstaendigkeit, multi-culturalism, and other pernicious swindle,
the greatest expression of which today is "diversity." One can only
"relate" (a telling neologism!) to that within the horizon of one's
historically conditioned culture. Nobody outside this has a right --
er, "right" -- to judge and be judgmental about what has grown organically
as the particularity and expression of one's "authenticity." Being "judgmental"
is today a very naughty, baddie, meanie thing to do since judgment invokes
reason. And reason necessarily presupposes, implies, some fixed, unchanging,
impersonal standard or fact about the universe.
Hundreds Mourn Times Editor Frank
Family and friends praise Frank del Olmo, the first Latino to gain
a place on the paper's masthead, at funeral services Tuesday [2/25/04].
Kristina Sauerwein, Times Staff Writer
Nearly 900 mourners Tuesday honored the accomplished life of Frank
del Olmo, a Los Angeles Times associate editor and columnist who championed
Latinos in and outside the newsroom.
Family and friends attending funeral services at All Saints Episcopal
Church in Pasadena remembered Del Olmo as a quiet man who had broken
ethnic barriers and advocated social justice.
Mourners extolled Del Olmo as an award-winning journalist who helped
launch careers — and as a loyal friend, an adoring husband and a loving
father of two.
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, Los Angeles
City Council President Alex Padilla, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and actor
Edward James Olmos were among those attending.
Times Editor John Carroll said the newspaper had received an outpouring
of tributes from people ranging from Mexican President Vicente Fox to
an unknown admirer who had left at the newspaper a tall votive candle
decorated with the image of Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint
of the poor and others in need.
Martha Goldstein, the Times' vice president for communications, emails
LAObserved.com that Castro's source was all wrong. "...Totally inaccurate
and irresponsible. The fact is that a Los Angeles Times editor met the
paramedics upon their arrival at The Times building and immediately
escorted them to Frank del Olmo's office."
Behind the Scenes
By Tony Castro, 2/26/03
A story making the rounds among those who attended Frank Del Olmo's
memorial service Tuesday was about the circumstances surrounding the
death of the Los Angeles Times associate editor and columnist.
According to a Times editor, when Del Olmo collapsed in the office
in the late morning of Feb. 19, a call was immediately placed for paramedics.
Nineteen minutes later, when Frank was apparently in full cardiac arrest,
paramedics finally showed up and began administering treatment.
What took so long?
The paramedics had actually arrived at the Times downtown offices four
minutes after being called. But in the age of post-9/11 security, were
kept waiting by the newspaper's own security for almost 15 minutes before
being allowed up to the editorial offices. All this, again, according
to that top level Times editor.
Legal action in the aftermath?
The other story that came out, according to this Times editor and longtime
Del Olmo associate, was that a post-mortem found that Del Olmo was in
terrible cardiovascular condition and may have been unaware that he
suffered from a congenital heart problem -- that doctors found he had
three blocked arteries and, apparently disassociated from his father
through much of his life, was unaware that when his own dad died at
roughly the same age, it was reportedly because of the same heart condition.
Author Gabriel García Márquez [who founded Cuba's International Film
School with dictator Fidel Castro] writes the LAT about Frank:
We met in Mexico City in the late 1980s, with an abrazo that felt like
a premonition we would become old compadres. We continued to see each
other, often sometimes just the two of us, many times in the company
Our conversations invariably centered on the news of the day. Those
of us who are born journalists discover early in our lives, and often
against our will, that our craft is not just a calling, a fate, a need
or a job. It's something we can't avoid: It is a vice among friends.
Frank del Olmo knew this better than anyone else. And he embraced it
as a prize awarded to him by life. He did journalism without pause,
enslaved by the certainty that the world would be better as long as
we faced it … as he did. He was a giant at his craft because he felt
an inexhaustible thrill enjoying and enduring reality, and because he
had the fortune of being loved by his friends around the world.
Carlos Fuentes writes to the LA Times:
Outwardly serene, internally intense, forever in search of the truth,
Frank del Olmo was my student at Harvard while enjoying a Nieman Fellowship
for excellence in journalism. Frank believed in information not only
as a duty but as a right. He was a bridge between Mexico, Mexican Americans
and the larger U.S. public. The bridge was made of paper. We now realize
it was really made, like Frank's heart, of gold.
A journalist writes me: "Don't know what to make of that Garcia
Marquez and Fuentes bs. Just out of curiosity, I ran the names of del
Olmo and each of them through the LA Times archieves. Nothing came up.
I mean, if you're a journalist -- especially one supposedly on top of
Latino affairs -- and you have a chance to be in the same room, much less
get an abrazo, from latinos of letters of this magnitude, wouldn't you
write something? Even a suckup piece?"
Only now can the true story be told
The late Frank del Olmo
is remembered at the Times as a huge party animal. Before his second marriage,
he lived in a tiny grubby apartment and chased chicks, including some
secretaries who worked at the Times. He eventually landed the most beautiful
of them -- she looked like Maude Adams, about 5'7" in high heels
-- as his second wife. They had a tempestous relationship. His third marriage
was to the mildly attractive Magdalana, the J-school graduate of his alma
mater Cal State Northridge. They were a Latino power couple who created
the Latino Fund with other Latino power couples (including the Villaraigosas).
A source writes:
[Among the powerful Latinos Frank hung with was] Victor Franco, community
affairs manager with the Miller Brewing Co. and now on the City Council
in Monrovia, and his wife Giselle Acevedo-Franco, a VP with the Times.
Victor Franco has almost statesman-like standing among many Latinos
on the Eastside, presumably because of a role he had on the 1984 Olympics
Organizing Committee on which he was head of protocol or call girls
or something. He was one of the few Latinos on that group, whose positions
were jealously sought back in the late 1970s.
Franco is one of these strait-laced guys who says and does all the
p.c. things. He sounds like the guy who does commercials with light
Spanish-accents on voice-overs.
I thought Frank's first wife was a bit on the plain side, even if she
was a blonde. I was under the impression she was someone he met at Cal
State Northridge. By 1972 they had Valentina. Frank showed me a photo
of the baby and his wife in Texas in September 1972.
Now the second one was a knockout. She was auburn haired. I know that
Frank did see himself as the ladies man. I once got a crazy call from
a beautician in one of those downtown office buildings offering me a
complimentary facial. Instead we met for lunch. Turns out she was trying
to find out background about Frank. I guess he got a bit more than a
facial from her, and he had never called again and wouldn't take her
Frank's first two wives were not Latinas. Defintely Anglo. Change Philip
Roth's Portnoy's Complaint to Del Olmo's Complaint and Jew to Latino,
and you will understand where Frank was coming from.
Magdalena is Latina. Linda Breakstone once told me years ago that Frank
had become obsessed with finding a Latina wife. I guess Linda qualified,
being that her maiden name was Bustamante. You can talk to Latino pyschologists,
some of whom will tell you that Latinos who marry non-Latinos ultimately
wind up looking for the Latina wife, be it guilt for whatever.
Magdalana later worked at the Chicano News Media Assn., and now heads
up the PR division of some health foundation. Playing amateur psychologist,
an acquaintance once referred to her as Frank's Latina Penelope, to
which he became noticeably pissed off.
Penelope as in The Odyssey. Frank wandering about all those years.
Magdalena the devout, devoted wife waiting patiently, faithfully at
home for Frank to come home and say, Latina, Latina, Latina, Latina,
Latina, (apologies to Molly Bloom).
Maybe I should have explained the reference to Frank.
Linda Breakstone once said that Frank had become obsessed with finding
a Latina wife. I guess Linda qualified, being that her maiden name was
Bustamante. You can talk to Latino pyschologists, some of whom will
tell you that Latinos who marry non-Latinos ultimately wind up looking
for the Latina wife out of guilt or whatever.
Frank and Magdalena married about 15 years ago. Dolores Sanchez, a
publisher of a small group of papers on the Eastide, says that Magdalena
worshipped Frank, as if he were a god. Does that mean that she felt
she was riding the cross? Don't know.
The MexMafia thing, of course, is there. I think it was Del Olmo who
largely pushed it, using other people like Ramos to front it. But a
lot of it was Del Olmo. Even the term "Latino" is something that went
into the LAT stylebook because of Frank's demands and influence.
Tthe Times has been hard-pressed to put Latinos and African-Americans
in management positions, all in a profession which the best Latinos
and African-Americans usually avoid. Certainly during the 70s and 80s.
Other professions paid better for starters. Then you had moms and dads
of this large wave of minorities who, after sacrificing for their kids,
wanted to see them going into the traditionally higher respective professions
like medicine and law. Many of those interested not in money but in
service to their communities went into teaching. All this accounts for
the smaller numbers of minorities in journalism -- and the smaller numbers
for papers to push into management slots. The only thing I do know about
Clayton (or one of the African American women in the editorial section,
and I assumed it was Clayton) was that she and Del Olmo had gotten their
knuckles rapped a few years ago involving favoritism over the elementary
school on the UCLA campus. The Times even wrote about it. Del Olmo reportedly
tried to use his influence there to get the child of this fellow editorial
person jumped ahead of other applicants at this school.)
It seemed like many of the Latinos del Olmo hung around with had those
little Zorro wannabe mustaches. I remember one time him even telling
me that he thought my face could use a mustache. I never did. Does that
mean I couldn't have been Zorro, nor part of Del Olmo's Latino in-crowd?
An observer writes Luke 3/14/04:
FYI on Del Olmo and his reporting: There's a line in the bio
of George Ramos, the former Timesman and longtime Del Omo crony
that reads "Ramos served in the U.S. Army and saw combat duty in Vietnam
as a first lieutenant in the fiels artillery."
I was going over some of Del Olmo's recent columns and found this one
in early February of this year on the Latino vote in the presidential
campaign. Frank quotes all of two people in the piece. Among them is
On the GOP side, there is the question of whether Bush completely
fulfilled his commitment to the Texas Air National Guard or was, as
some of his more ardent critics claim, AWOL part of the time. "A lot
of vets, it doesn't matter so much what you did as long as you served,"
said George Ramos, a Vietnam veteran from East Los Angeles. "But some
may say Kerry was in 'Nam and the president wasn't, and hold that
If this is the same George Ramos that was perhaps Del Olmo's best friend,
it raises the same point that Del Olmo was long criticized in Latino
circles on the Los Angeles Eastside (the chi chi Latino social crowd
aside): Where was Frank in reporting on the streets of the part of the
city he was supposed to know best? Too often, many believed, Del Olmo
was looking at the Eastside from the figurative ivory tower of the Times
Mirror building. In Vietnam, Latinos served in larger proportion than
any other segment of the population. That was one of the reasons behind
the 1970 Moratorium March that led to the death of legendary Timesman
Ruben Salazar. So needing to quote Latino Viet vets in a column, a reporter
couldn't find a Latino Vietnam vet on the Eastside and has to resort
to quoting a friend, a fellow Times reporter? What did that take, a
phone call from Frank's office at the Times to Ramos' office in academia?
Unless it's just coincidental, and that's not the same George Ramos.
It is is, then, at least, there was a need for disclosure, don't you
Frank del Olmo did a column last fall that had everybody laughing.
I can't recall exactly what it was but had some glaring errors. We're
talking columns here, not last-second reporting jobs. Lazy, sloppy opinions
are one thing for a columnist but there's no excuse for lazy, sloppy
Ever wonder what they do with all that spare time and
influence at the LA Times' editorial offices?
This ran in the LA Times, March 21, 1996, page 1
Admissions Rules at UCLA Eased for Rich
By Ralph Frammolino, Mark Gladstone and Henry Weinstein
Special considerations in admissions for the rich and well-connected
has been part of the UCLA culture for years, extending beyond University
of California regents and state politicians to include friends and relatives
of local political figures, university officials and major donors, a
months-long Times investigation shows.
[Further down in the story] In 1992, for example, Frank del Olmo, then
Times deputy editor of the editorial pages, wrote a letter on newspaper
stationery to [UCLA Chancellor Charles E.] Young asking for "any help"
that the chancellor could provide for the daughter of Janet Clayton,
then an assistant editor, to be admitted to the (university's special
-- my parenthesis) elementary school.
Del Olmo, now assistant to the editor, said that Clayton asked for
his assistance and that he referred to the editorial board in the letter
because he hoped that "saying this is a person in a significant position
at the L.A. Times would move [the matter] a little higher on [Young's]
radar screen than the dozens of things he has to deal with on a given
The child was not admitted, and Clayton -- now editor of the editorial
pages -- said she feels that the request was a mistake.
Reich Writes: 'Turnout of Times People At Del Olmo Book Event Is Shamefully
I couldn't help but remember Shelby Coffey, former Times editor now
living in the Washington, D.C. area. He truly believed in diversity
and worked hard for it in his years at the Times. He definitely would
have been there had he still been editor.
Manuel Valencia, the veteran Los Angeles PR man, told me that 300 people
in all had been invited to last night's event, and about 100 RSVPd.
Only about 50 showed up, a mostly Latino crowd, few Anglos in evidence.
Valencia did not have the precise number of Times people invited by
del Olmo's widow, Magdalena-Beltran del Olmo, a co-editor with Sotomayor,
of the book, "Frank del Olmo, Commentaries on His Times." But he said
he believed it was very substantial. It certainly was scores.
a post to Ken's website: "This is why these tired old hacks like
Del Olmo made the LA Times such a drudge to read. They have their racial
identity politics that they look for any opportunity to infuse into their
columns. By the end of his career, I had absolutely no interest in reading
anything he wrote. You want to know why his book party was deserted –
he was dull and nobody cared any more about what he had to say!"
A Chat With Former
LAT's Reporter Ken Reich
I call Ken at 11pm Wednesday, June 22, 2005. He was just falling asleep
at the Days Inn in Burns, Oregon. He's on an 84-day driving trip to Alaska
and the Canadian Arctic.
Luke: "What do you think was Frank's main contribution to journalism?"
Ken: "Getting the Associate Editorship and having a column at The
Times. That was his biggest success?"
Luke: "What was he best at? Was he a great journalist? A great editor?
A great columnist?"
Ken: "He was not a great journalist but he had determination. He
made himself important at The Times because he was the only Latino in
his position. He attended a great many meetings. He was a plodder more
than a brilliant polemicist. Because he was first in things and because
there was a great deal of feelings among Hispanics that he was perhaps
more important than he was at the paper, he was able to accomplish some
"The best thing Frank ever did as a journalist was opposing the
[LAT's 1994] endorsement of [Governor Pete] Wilson. Are you acquainted
Luke: "I'm acquainted with that, but it's something outside of journalism,
Ken: "No. It was done at the paper. He staged a rebellion. He threatened
to quit. They finally did something for him that they had never done for
anybody else -- give him the right to write an editorial disagreeing with
the editorial that they had written. And they gave him the Associate Editorship
besides. This is not Michael Kinsley who's willing to run all sorts of
contradictory editorials time after time and give outsiders a chance to
write. [What Frank did] had never been done before.
"At the time of the endorsement of Nixon over McGovern [in 1972],
they had run a letter from some staffers disagreeing.
"Frank disagreed eloquently. I think this was definitely a journalistic
Luke: "You just don't think of journalism being political partisan?"
Ken: "I heard [USC
professor Dr. Felix] Gutierrez speak the other night. He said that
the First Amendment looks forward to impartial journalism. The First Amendment
was nothing of the kind. The
First Amendment looks forward to advocacy journalism. That's the reason
there is a First Amendment. I think Frank was certainly within First Amendment
traditions when he took a position. This is bunk when you say that journalists
are not supposed to take sides. [When the First Amendment was created],
it was always expected that journalists would express their opinion. That's
why there was a First Amendment, so people could freely express their
Luke: "You say Frank was not a brilliant columnist, yet you criticize
[members of The Los Angeles Times] for not showing up to his book."
Ken: "I was criticizing the indifference of the white reporters
and editors about Hispanics and other minorities at The Times. The whole
battle for diversity at The Times has been waged by very few people in
the Hispanic community and the Black community. Even when The Times had
a diversity committee, which I was a member of, it was noted by its failure
to take a solid position in favor of diversity. It's a tradition around
there that its largely white staff does not care much what happens to
the minorities. The same could be said of women at The Times, though women
have now achieved a great deal.
"When I first went to work downtown, there was only one woman in
the City room (Dorothy Townsend). The women got their positions by rebelling,
not by anybody giving them anything. There's a long tradition around the
paper about not caring."
Luke: "When did this change? Shelby Coffee was famous for his commitment
Ken: "Yes, it changed more under Shelby than it did under Bill Thomas,
though Thomas did hire the first Black staffers. I don't think it's an
entirely satisfactory situation today. The Times is not filled with black
and brown reporters."
Luke: "How important is it that The Times be filled with black and
brown reporters and what proportion should they be?"
Ken: "I'm not an advocate of a quota system. I think The Times should
have a more substantial contingent of minority reporters and more promotions.
Even though Dean Baquet is managing editor and a black man is almost a
coincidence due to his talents. It's not that there's any great movement
afoot to promote blacks. You have Janet Clayton [former Op/Ed editor]
head of Metro but the City room is not filled with blacks. The blacks
like Tyla Rivera and Jocelyn Stewart aren't given good assignments.
the most outstanding reporters to come out of the Metpro
(Minority Editorial Training Program) program, have gone on elsewhere.
Some have succeeded within the paper -- Hector Tobar, Henry Chu."
Luke: "Is there a hostile work environment to minorities at The
Ken: "It's more a sin of omission. This is not a Southern jury that
decides to get together and not convict a killer of civil rights advocates.
It's more that they don't really care."
Luke: "What's more important? Racial diversity or ideological diversity?"
Ken says racial balance. "I don't think there's a great deal of
ideological diversity [at The LAT] either. At the end, I was one of the
few conservatives on the staff.
"When I went downtown [to the Times headquarters on Spring Street]
in 1967, I was the only person interested in covering the anti-war movement.
That's why I got the Eugene McCarthy campaign post. I was the only one
interested in police brutality stories.
"There's a lot of pack journalism. Reporters who say newspapermen
are not liberals are protesting too much.
"[It's not enough] to simply have people who happen to be black
or brown in skin color, because The Times had a whole succession of black
reporters who never uttered a peep about racial issues. They were accepted
as black reporters because they weren't strong in pursuing black ideals."
Luke: "What are black ideals?"
Ken: "By that I mean identification with the black community. When
the black community was more concentrated in South-East LA, we had black
reporters (Bill Drummond, Richardson), and Baquet now in Santa Monica...
I wouldn't say Baquet is interested in the Black community. Sometimes
Baquet takes what would be identified as a Black position. But he didn't
get ahead that way. You could say at The New York Times that Howell Raines
was more interested in the Black community than any of the black reporters
(except for Earl Caldwell)."
Luke: "Frank seemed to be the Latino that The LA Times trotted out
to all sorts of events."
Ken: "Yes. Not only was he personable and a good representative,
but he wanted to do it.
"The same thing is true of Jewish reporters. A lot of Jews at The
LA Times don't like to be thought of as Jewish. There's almost a self-hating
Jew. Take Op/Ed page Editor Nick Goldberg. He's anxious to be right in
the middle of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are a lot of minority reporters
who feel they've gotten ahead by not being strong advocates of their minority.
"I come from a situation like that in my family. My father [Herman
Reich] was only the third Jew to make Admiral rank in the U.S. Navy. Rickover
was the second. All three graduated from the [Annapolis]
academy. My father was not a strong advocate of Judaism within the Navy.
My son is in the Navy now.
"The Times had a lot of Jewish reporters. Mrs. Chandler was responsible
for opening up links between the Protestant and Jewish communities in
raising Westside money for downtown goals. When Otis Chandler became publisher,
one of the ways it changed is that it opened up to the Jewish community.
It was no coincidence that The Times had as political writers me, Bill
Boyarsky, Carl Brainberg, Bob Shogun. We were all Jews.
"The Chandlers had a good attitude towards the Jewish community.
Now, because of Israel, there are strains between the Jewish community
and the downtown Times establishment.
"I'm not religious. The first congregation I joined was when my
mother died last year. I liked the rabbi who presided over my mother's
service. I've always been more politically Jewish than religiously Jewish."
Luke: "I go to a lot of journalist gatherings and one of the things
often brought up about Frank del Olmo was that he wasn't any great shakes
as a journalist?"
Ken won't comment about that on the record.
Ken: "I do believe that a good journalist can express opinions.
I followed as a political writer a much different policy than my colleagues
who would never discuss their political views. I'd respond to anybody
who asked who I had voted for for president."
Ken's been a registered Republican for about the last 30 years (with
the exception of three years when his daughter Cathy worked for Democratic
senator Diane Feinstein).
"My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were always Republicans.
In fact, my great-grandfather who came here from Romania in 1888, said
within the family that Republicanism was synonymous with Americanism."
Luke: "What would be your guess about the percentage of Republicans
among reporters and editors at The LA Times?"
Ken: "I'd guess it would be small.
"I don't think it would be a bad thing for the Republicans to exert
a little control over public radio and television."
Luke: "Tony Castro writes on your blog that Frank del Olmo's significance
lay not in breaking stories but in 'pressing Affirmative Action and diversity
at the Times'."
Ken: "I don't disagree. A lot of the progress that The Times made
on Latino questions was as much Frank Sotomayor's doing as Frank del Olmo's.
"Many of the more successful Latino writers do not work for The
"Jack White worked for Time magazine on black affairs. I wanted
to hire Jack White but Jack was entirely too outspoken for Bill Thomas's
taste. That was not the type of minority reporter The LA Times wanted
to hire. They wanted to hire people who seemed like carbon copies of the
white reporters they had. You used the term, 'Wore good clothes.'
"Black columnist Sandy Banks was interested in everything but the
black community. But she just looked good, which was one reason she advanced
at The Times."
Our conversation wanders.
Ken: "To the extent that I admired Frank, it was because he did
let people know where he stood, and as a result, he accomplished certain
things. Was he a distinguished journalist? Well, I wasn't either. I empathized
Luke: "Many of us feel uneasy about celebrating an ethnic activist
at a general interest newspaper?"
Ken: "Remember that The Times for many years had over 1,000 editorial
staff members. Having a few activists in that group is a good thing. It
would've been good to have Jack White around the paper. He would've brought
to the paper some empathy with the black community, which, for a long
time, our black reporters didn't have."