Chatterbox has no idea whether the plan by the owners of the Staples Center sports arena to transform 30 acres of downtown Los Angeles into something they envision as "Los Angeles' Times Square" is a good idea or a bad one. But Chatterbox did suspect, in reading the May 4 Los Angeles Times account of the plan's unveiling, that the phrase "Los Angeles' Times Square" must have put butterflies into the stomach of L.A. Times deputy city/county bureau chief Jim Newton, who wrote the story. It does, after all, sound very much like the phrase "Los Angeles Times Square." And while New York's Times Square is unselfconsciously named for the newspaper whose offices are located there, the L.A. Times has reason to fret about anything that would look like a new partnership between itself and anyone affiliated with the Staples Center.
The LA Times' earlier partnership with the Staples Center, you'll recall, led to a secret sharing of ad revenue between the newspaper and the sports arena that caused a scandal that ended with parent company Times-Mirror being sold to the Tribune Co., and the departure of the paper's top management team: Times-Mirror chairman Mark "Cereal Killer" Willes; publisher Kathryn Downing; and editor Michael Parks. (For Chatterbox's earlier coverage of l'affaire Staples and its aftermath, click here and here and here and here and here. If you're still curious after all that, check out L.A. Times reporter David Shaw's investigation, which took up 14 pages of the Dec. 20 paper.)
Did Newton insert that apostrophe after "Los Angeles" to make clear his paper wasn't once more playing footsie with the Staples owners? He did not, Newton told Chatterbox, though "I'm mindful of the history." (He says the Staples folk also used the phrase "Times Square of Los Angeles.") Newton said he received no particular instructions from his editors about how to cover Times Square West. (In general, Newton, who writes frequently about the Staples Center, says he's been admonished to "do this straight.") Newton's piece is fairly critical of the redevelopment plan, which would likely involve a substantial taxpayer subsidy. Was he dumping all over it to exorcise Staples scandal demons? No, Newton said; the L.A. Times was extremely tough about similar issues when the Staples Center was being built. Chatterbox's first thought about the development plan is that Los Angeles doesn't need a Times Square, because it already has one at Hollywood and Vine. (There's even a Disney presence--the refurbished nearby El Capitan movie theater.) Still, before formulating a firm opinion, Chatterbox should probably read about Times Square West in some other publication.