BUSINESS WRITER WAS WRONG CHOICE FOR 'WETLANDS' REVIEW
Los Angeles Times
May 1, 1999, p. F-4
Because The Times has ignored the issue of the destruction
of the Ballona Wetlands with the exception of a few pro-Playa
Vista/DreamWorks PR pieces, it is not surprising that it had James
Bates of the Business section "review" the documentary
film on the issue instead of a real movie critic, who might have
given a positive review, offending several large advertisers ("
'Wetlands' More Promotion Than Documentary," April 24).
Showing his ignorance of what a documentary actually is, Bates
pans "The Last Stand: The Struggle for Ballona
Wetlands" because it doesn't automatically make both
sides look equally good and has too many cons with not enough
pros. Heaven help Bates if he ever has to review a documentary
on the Ku Klux Klan or Ted Bundy.
The portion that most blatantly shows Bates' prejudice against
saving the wetlands is his statement that people supporting Playa
Vista/DreamWorks "are made either to look sleazy or misguided."
That's because they are either sleazy or misguided, and why the
sleaziest of the supporters refused to be interviewed in the film.
Apparently Bates believes that the filmmakers should have done
a puff piece on these people in absentia so as not to contradict
The Times' own lack of balance.
The Times should either leave movie reviews to the movie critics
or have Kenneth Turan write about IPOs, options and derivatives.
Frances Longmire, Los Angeles
It's very interesting to me that the Calendar editors didn't
look to either of their excellent television critics, Howard Rosenberg
or Brian Lowry, for a review of Sheila Laffey's documentary on
the plight of the Ballona Wetlands. Bates' call for documentary
objectivity sounds especially cynical coming from a newspaper
with such a craven history of sucking up to powerful business
interests at the expense of the rest of us.
Tim Doyle, Glendale
Bates' final words of advice to the filmmakers,
"Next time let PBS' 'Frontline' handle the job," hits
the same note as the studio system, which is to make everything
smooth and glossy. To these people there is nothing uglier than
the sincerity of a grass-roots effort.
Randy Olson, Lecturer, Department of Biology, USC
As a professor of environmental law, I was amazed
to read the one-sided report on "The Last Stand"
by Lorenza Munoz and the accompanying review by James Bates.
Munoz states that the viewpoints of the Playa Vista developers
were absent in the film, yet it gave a fairly high percentage
of time to a contractor working on the project who described it
in great detail and clearly stated the developers' opinion that
the site was too far degraded to be of any ecological value. Bates'
piece was even more biased, as he did not even attempt to describe
the anti-development point of view but characterized the activists
as narcissistic "Woodstock veterans" without knowing
anything about them.
I have been a litigator on various sides of environmental court
cases and know that the situation is far more complex than these
Times reporters portray; just because a site is degraded does
not mean it cannot be cleaned up, as the parties to the recent
Los Cerritos Wetlands negotiation in Long Beach have agreed to
do. All estuarine wetlands have immense ecological value as bird-nesting
grounds, sea-life nurseries and water filtration systems, and
can be restored to varying degrees depending upon the financial
resources that can be committed.
Peter L. Reich, Whittier Law School