Extreme diligence in pursuit of the seemingly trivial

One of my favorite things about being in LA (I’m back in New York now) is the opportunity to sit down at breakfast with the Los Angeles Times. I know, I can read it online, but the Times site isn’t very good—certainly not in the same league as nytimes.com or washingtonpost.com or even sfgate.com. But the paper is still great. Flawed, yes, but with a daily complement of interesting articles that would put most other newspapers on earth to shame. Plus Steve Lopez!

The best of the lot yesterday was a page-one piece about “Foley artists,” the low-tech craftspeople who provide sound effects to the movie business. The rise of digital animation has only increased the demand for their work; movies made without any ambient noise are apparently in desperate need of people who know how generate fake but convincing sound effects using hoses and washboards. This may not last forever—one has to assume that, eventually, they’ll be able to fake sounds digitally as well. But for now, new technology has created a bunch of new low-tech jobs.

The article, by Richard Verrier, is characterized by what to me is the distinguishing and most endearing LA Times trait: Extreme diligence in pursuit of the seemingly trivial. Yes, the paper breaks big stories in D.C. and elsewhere. But that’s not what I read it for. My favorite LA Times story of the past year or so was a depiction by Erika Hayasaki of life at Montebello High School. When I say seemingly trivial, the emphasis is on the seemingly: Hayasaki’s story depicted how a high school with an overwhelmingly Latino student body was sharply divided between the second-generation immigrants who play football and join the drill team and the newcomers who maybe play soccer but otherwise stay out of school activities. A better depiction of the complications of modern-day immigration cannot be found.

And that, actually, is the problem: It literally cannot be found. Repeated searches of the LA Times site and archives failed to turn up the article. I finally came across it via Google, on the blog of a Montebello High grad who asserts (less than credibly) that Hayasaki made it all up.

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