L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein announced yesterday that he had penned his final column after 12 years at the newspaper. His departure will leave the Times impoverished, for as the title of his last column implies, “Wanted: a few good mavericks,” Goldstein is one of those.
Never one to cave to the ceaseless stream of Internet news noise, Goldstein cared about ideas and took time to think about what he wanted to say. His strength was also, unfortunately, his tragic flaw, since much of today’s journalism environment values minute-by-minute scoops over what any of it means.
“I see my job as connecting the dots, digging past the superficial headlines of the day to get at deeper issues,” he wrote in the column. “If you’ve read me, you know I admire outsiders, not just because they’re great copy, but because mavericks — be it Lee, Mark Cuban or Billy Beane of ‘Moneyball’ fame — inspire innovation. They take more risks than any corporate behemoth[.]” But to his frustration, those mavericks are rare breeds. “The entire business model for today’s movie business is rooted in an aversion to originality,” Goldstein wrote.
Likewise, when it comes to entertainment reporting, Goldstein is part of an endangered breed who care not just about what is “news”, but why it is significant. He wasn’t trying to be a one-stop shop for Hollywood reportage, emailing hundreds of “exclusives” and “breaking” announcements each week; he saw beyond current events and topical issues to get at deeper trends, personalities and projects that might matter to the wider culture. He never pandered to salacious scandal stories but wrote about what mattered to him most. He wasn’t afraid to voice his opinions and challenge the industry to do better.
Though it has powerful potential, Hollywood entertainment does not come pre-packaged with meaning. It is writers like Goldstein that make it meaningful, filtering its content through a prism of context and creativity.
I’m personally sad to see him go, because I’ve known him for years and as I’ve noted before, he was an unwitting mentor. When I first began this blog, he suggested that I approach it with “opinion and attitude” so as to set it apart from the stream of information from which Internet users have a choice to read. And it remains one of my proudest accomplishments that Goldstein even thought Hollywood Jew worthy to write about.
His voice will be missed and I hope he’s not silent for long.