Essential California: The last of the movie moguls, 80 million people hacked and tamer college freshmen

Welcome to Essential California, your daily newsletter covering stories across the Golden State. The newsletter is brought to you by California editor Shelby Grad and reporter Alice Walton.

Sony’s End of an Era

The departure of longtime Sony studios chief Amy Pascal wasn’t much of a surprise in Hollywood given the company’s recent crippling and embarrassing hacking attack. But some said Pascal’s exit represents the end of an era. She “could be the last of the real movie moguls,” said movie producer Bill Gerber. “Who else grew up in a business where the job definition was to make great movies and the profits would follow?” Pascal earned respect for backing “difficult dramas” like “The Social Network” and “Moneyball” while other studios chased comic book adaptations and blockbuster sequels. One possible successor? Some say former Fox executive Tom Rothman.

Fallout From Anthem Data Breach

Security experts say insurance giant Anthem Inc. was actually “lucky” that one of its employees discovered its major data breach. The hack went undetected for weeks, though many cases go unnoticed for months. The database that was targeted was not encrypted, even though it contained names, birth dates and Social Security numbers. An estimated 80 million people may be affected by the breach, which one technology expert suggested was even more serious than recent Target and Home Depot hacks.


Dangers of divided Democrats: Times writer George Skelton on the dangers of a rift in the state’s Democratic Party: Latino versus black, north versus south. “It's the unintended consequence of one-party domination in California. Democrats have conquered Republicans. So they're turning on each other in the struggle for political power,” he writes.

The real Silicon Valley: MIT researchers believe they’ve pinpointed the Bay Area ZIP Codes with "the highest entrepreneurial quality." At the top of the list: parts of San Francisco and a large swath of the Peninsula and South Bay, as well as certain East Bay spots such as Berkeley and the Livermore area, the Verge reports.

De-friended: Medical marijuana dispensaries are finding themselves being booted off Facebook, iTunes and Instagram, San Francisco Chronicle reports.


LAUSD food director out: The man responsible for bringing more healthful foods into Los Angeles public schools is under investigation for possible mismanagement and conflicts of interest. The L.A. Unified School District’s inspector general says David Binkle failed to report payments from vendors and hid his interest in a private food-related consulting firm. Binkle, who has denied any wrongdoing, continues to receive his six-figure salary.

Disney’s succession plan: Hollywood has been wondering for years who will eventually succeed longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger, whose contract runs through June 2018. The answer may well have come into focus Thursday as the company’s chief of theme parks, Thomas O. Saggs, was named chief operating officer.

Labor contract at ports: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia are calling for an end to the seven-month labor dispute at their respective ports, the Daily News reports. The Pacific Maritime Assn. presented the International Longshore and Warehouse Union with a five-year contract proposal Wednesday. In a joint statement, the mayors urged the two sides to “continue talking to quickly reach an agreement and return our ports to efficient operations.”


We now have proof that today’s college freshmen are a tamer bunch.

Here’s the data from UCLA researchers:

Frequently/occasionally drink beer:

2014: 33%

2004: 45%

Spent six hours or more a week at parties in high school:

2014: 11%

2004: 23%

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.