Opinion: On ‘Hear Me Out,’ our effort to have readers tell their own stories


Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 30. If you’re confused about the rules for trick-or-treating Sunday, you’re not the only one. This is the guidance from the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in Opinion.

You probably know that we hear a lot from readers — so much that we have a whole section of the newspaper devoted to publishing their opinions in the form of letters to the editor. For years it has been my privilege to select which of the letters sent to us get published and to communicate with some of this newspaper’s most devoted readers (yes, even those of you who more often than not disapprove of our journalism).

Now, we’re expanding what we do with these letters to the editor. Over the last few months, the video journalists at L.A. Times Studios have been interviewing readers who have sent us letters that relate their personal stories to some of the biggest issues we cover. Climate change, transportation, homelessness, pollution, racial and economic justice, and basic quality-of-life issues like noisy leaf blowers — these are all topics that have been covered in depth by our journalists, and they’ve also prompted our readers to write some of the most compelling letters to the editor detailing their personal experiences”.


This is where our new video series featuring short, reader-focused documentaries comes in.

The series, “Hear Me Out,” allows letter writers to tell their stories in greater depth. The most recent video featured Santa Monica resident Son Vo, who shared his story of fleeing Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and of having flashbacks of his journey to the U.S. as he followed the news of American forces and Afghan refugees leaving Kabul. A previous installment had Carson community activist Jan Victor Andasan movingly explain the health consequences of living their whole life next to the ports of Long Beach and L.A., imploring us to think of releasing toxic fumes into the air as a form of violence against their community. (In my view, this is something important to consider as the ports ramp up to around-the-clock operations in time for us to indulge in our annual holiday buying sprees.)

Past videos featured a reader who wrote a letter in the hope that doing so would get public assistance for an evidently mentally ill homeless man who assaulted her pastor; a widow whose cancer-stricken husband suffered the “long, drawn-out, tortuous process” of opting for aid-in-dying (the diary entries she shared from the days leading up to her husband’s death were utterly heartbreaking); and a recently laid-off reader from Long Beach who warned back in February that she faced foreclosure unless Congress quickly enacted an aid package that included large stimulus checks.

There are innumerable stories for us to help our readers tell, and it can start with someone writing a letter to the editor about their experiences with an issue we’ve recently covered. If you want more information on what goes into selecting and editing letters to the editor, click here to watch our video introducing “Hear Me Out.” For tips on getting your letter published in The Times, click here. Finally, you can use this online form to submit a letter, or you can email

These are the Californians bearing the brunt of climate change, and they’re not in cities like Los Angeles or San Diego. Columnist Jean Guerrero tells the stories of farmworkers throughout the state who continued to pick the fruit and vegetables we eat through wildfires and deadly heatwaves. Some who exercised their right not to work amid mortal danger were denied employment in future jobs; others who continued to work suffered grave injuries. Guerrero says putting these workers on a path to citizenship would recognize their critical contributions to our state and make it easier for them to claim needed benefits. L.A. Times

President Biden wants to go big on climate change, but he’s stymied by Congress. When world leaders meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for a two-week summit, they’re expected to produce concrete plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming. But there’s a problem, says The Times Editorial Board: “As of now, the Biden administration is going to Scotland with a weak plan that mostly relies on incentives to encourage emissions reductions but without the mandates or penalties to ensure the reductions actually happen — all because obstructionists and fossil fuel loyalists in Congress gutted President Biden’s most aggressive climate change programs.” L.A. Times


Do guns need to be on movie sets? No, says the editorial board, and the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Alec Baldwin’s film “Rust” should speed the switch to special effects to re-create the muzzle flash and noise of gunfire. That an actual human being died in a horrible, tragic accident doesn’t seem to faze the Trumpist Republicans pouncing on Baldwin to land a political cheap shot, says Robin Abcarian. As for Baldwin, there’s a special, debilitating anguish that people who unintentionally kill another person carry with them for the rest of their lives, writes Maryann J. Gray.

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David Chappelle’s a victim only of his own poor judgment. Columnist LZ Granderson compares the comedian’s transphobic stand-up comedy to bits by Eddie Murphy and Bob Hope in the 1980s: “Murphy and Hope whiffed with their jokes about AIDS in the 1980s. Those jokes aren’t outdated. To say that would suggest there was a point in time at which it was OK. It was never OK. It was just accepted. It no longer is, and guess what, Murphy is still able to make people laugh without having to mock people dying of AIDS.” L.A. Times

Whose statue should replace Junípero Serra’s at the U.S. Capitol? Times readers started the discussion by sending us more than 200 nominations of prominent Californians. The ideas included Sally Ride, John Steinbeck, Jack London, Ishi, Walt Disney, John Muir, Biddy Mason, Cesar Chavez and Jackie Robinson. There is no shortage of important figures from this state to send to Washington to replace the likeness of the 18th century Spanish missionary whose work facilitated the destruction of California’s Indigenous cultures; state legislators should take their pick. L.A. Times

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