Bad coverage of ports

by
Port of Los Angeles Main Channel

Mark Lacter of LA Observed writes that the coverage of the recent strike by workers at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port was poor because journalists focused on an estimated economic impact that was overblown.

Lacter writes, “You can see why reporters and headline writers would want to grab onto that big, round number. What better way to legitimize a complex business story? But the estimate should have been discounted for any number of reasons – not the least of which being that goods sitting outside the L.A. port complex would eventually get to market, thus minimizing losses for manufacturers, retailers, and the port workers themselves. It will take many weeks to find out the actual dollar losses – a lifetime in media years. Of course, there are other unanswered questions:

–What are the terms of the deal? Neither side is talking.
–Why did the union decide to strike in late November — well after the holiday rush?

–What led the full International Longshore and Warehouse Union to honor the picket lines of the relatively small clerical unit? (At first the strike only affected a single terminal.)

–Are the union claims of outsourcing legitimate?

–Are the shipping operators’ claims of featherbedding legitimate?

–How big a role did Mayor Villaragosa play in reaching an agreement? He’s essentially taking credit for saving the day.

“Very few reporters have a handle on these questions because news organizations have next to no presence at the ports. Shipping, you see, is simply too much of a hassle to cover. Sources are uncooperative, the industry itself is extremely secretive and nearly impossible to follow, the stories aren’t all that exciting, and, don’t laugh, San Pedro isn’t easy to get to. So aside from rewriting port press releases and covering Harbor Commission meetings, it’s basically ignored – until there’s a strike.”

Read more here.