Essential California: Death of an L.A. news pioneer, a peek at the Broad museum, port disruptions

Essential California is a daily collection of the best reporting on the Golden State. This edition looks back on the major story lines of the week. The newsletter is brought to you by reporter Alice Walton and California Editor Shelby Grad.


Where reporting live began: So much of the way TV stations cover the news today started with Stan Chambers, the longtime KTLA-TV reporter who died Friday at age 91. In 1949, a 3-year-old girl named Kathy Fiscus fell into a narrow abandoned well pipe in San Marino. For more than 27 hours, Chambers was part of the Channel 5 team that provided live coverage of the rescue attempt, captivating the Southland and creating a new form of reporting. "That was the first time anyone realized that television had this remarkable ability,” Chambers later said. 

LAPD problems: A plainclothes police officer shot a 15-year-old boy in the back this week when the cop mistook a toy gun for a real one. The toy was held by the 15-year-old’s friend. The shooting is renewing questions about whether toy or replica guns should come in different colors to differentiate them from actual weapons. At the same time, L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck has deployed extra officers in South L.A. after a jump in shootings and homicides.

Inside the honeycomb: The long-awaited Broad museum of contemporary art is beginning to take shape in downtown L.A. The museum won’t open until the fall, but Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne got a sneak peek at its white honeycombed facade. One room stood out to him: “The lobby promises to be a strikingly unusual room, unlike any other in Los Angeles, essentially closed or windowless on two long walls and entirely open at the corners.”


Port disruptions: You may find yourself waiting a little longer if you ordered overseas-made electronics or other goods from Amazon or another company -- and you can blame the continuing labor disputes at 29 West Coast ports. Dockworkers and shipping companies are fighting over the issue of arbitration as they try to reach a new labor agreement. Although that may not seem to be directly related to the typical consumer, the dispute has led to work slowdowns that are leaving lots of containers stuck on ships or docks. Late this week, negotiations resumed between the Pacific Maritime Assn. and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Hot and fiery: The spicy, sweet sauce known as Sriracha has seen its sales grow from $60 million to $80 million annually in just the last two years. Could that be because the original product was never trademarked by its creator, Huy Fong Foods? The company’s David Tran believes that his sales are boosted by other companies’ attempts to replicate his product.... Elsewhere on the business front, departing Sony executive Amy Pascal had some fiery advice of her own this week when she spoke at the Women in the World conference in San Francisco. On her hacked emails that revealed some not-so-nice comments about movie stars such as Angelina Jolie, Pascal said, “If we all actually were nice it wouldn’t work.”


Candidate maneuvers: Few voters are paying attention to the 2016 election, let alone the 2018 election, but that hasn’t stopped two of the state’s top Democrats from taking steps to secure their political futures. That’s because this far out from an election, it’s more about raising money and picking up endorsements than it is about reaching voters. State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris won the endorsement of the LAPD officers’ union this week, then left Los Angeles with an additional $1.4 million for her campaign war chest. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who never made his gubernatorial aspirations a secret, set up a fundraising committee for 2018. Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa remains mum on his political future.

DWP nonprofits: Audits may sometimes run into roadblocks, but City Hall officials don’t typically hear this as the reason: Auditors are said to be taking too many notes. The staff of Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin staff has been trying to investigate how two nonprofit trusts spent $40 million in public funds, but under a deal with the Department of Water and Power employees' union, which oversaw the nonprofits, auditors weren’t allowed to photocopy any relevant documents. When the auditors took out their pens and paper, administrators complained that they transcribed too much information.


“Birdman” for the win? Awards season is chugging along to its culmination: the Oscars. With just over a week before the final awards show, “Birdman” is looking like the movie to beat, according to The Times’ awards guru, Glenn Whipp. Just a few weeks ago, it looked like a toss-up with “Boyhood,” but Whipp now declares: “If another movie wins, it'd rank as one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the Academy Awards, bigger than ‘Crash,’ ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and Juliette Binoche over Lauren Bacall all wrapped up together in a Godiva chocolate gift box.”

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.