A new book by L.A. Times reporter Paul Pringle covers the scandal involving former USC medical school dean Carmen Puliafito, who partied in a Pasadena hotel room with a young drug addict who overdosed on crystal meth and GHB.
The book, “Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels,” also covers another interesting angle: How the Times covered up the story and prevented Pringle from writing it for months.
In an article today on the book, the Times says, “a clandestine team of reporters had to hide their early efforts to cover the university from the paper’s top management.”
The book “contends that the actions (Times editors) took to stymie the USC investigation went against the most basic tenets of journalism and tarnished the news organization’s credibility at a time of rampant distrust of the media.”
It’s not shocking that the Times’ editors and USC administration had a cozy relationship. For years, USC has leaked big stories to the Times, especially on big donations. It would also give preference to the Times for some sports stories.
An example: When Pete Carroll interviewed for the Miami Dolphins job in 2007, he gave a strange press conference where he wasn’t clear about his intentions to stay at USC.
So that night, USC sports information director Tim Tessalone told Carroll to call a Times columnist and offer a second set of quotes on whether Carroll was staying. The move infuriated the rest of the media because they weren’t given the same access to Carroll.
Max Nikias wielded a lot of power during his tenure so it’s no surprise he had some influence with the Times.
But this book is compelling as it details that the Times editors initially killed the Puliafito story. The Times eventually fired six employees.