Pretty sure we've heard a few cheers today for the LA Times's takedown of Beverly Hills Courier publisher Clif Smith, the aspiring William Randolph Hearst who's fond of using his newspaper to push his personal agenda. The Courier is distributed free every week and it's a regular read for a certain aging Beverly Hills demographic; Smith, who lives in Pasadena (but practices law in BH), uses the Courier to push his libertarian ideas, but also his strong anti-Purple-Line sentiments, and to punish officials who support the subway. Smith loathes the Purple Line extension and uses the Courier to blast Metro on a daily basis and generally stoke any fires against the project. Smith's opposition to the Purple Line appears to be his raison d'etre--he turned on BH mayor Willie Brien because he dared to attend an early groundbreaking ceremony for the project. (Ballsy/powerful County Supe Zev Yaroslavsky, who supports the subway, said at a recent Beverly Hills Rotary Club meeting--which Smith attended--that the Courier practices "yellow journalism.")
A few BH politicians speak on the record in the story, saying Smith bullied them to have city employees fired; after they explained they had "neither the power nor the inclination to meet his demands," they showed up in a big Courier hit piece. Several people also said that Smith threatens BH employees who advertise city services or programs in competing papers like the Beverly Hills Weekly or the Times.
Smith, whose father also ran and tried to exert influence through newspapers, defends himself by saying he is only doing a service to his readers by questioning the actions of BH officials.
"I think [Smith] has the thrill of power in a very sad, perverse way," Dena Schechter, a local Democrat who produced mailers supporting Brien and blasting Smith as a carpetbagger, told the Times. "He is playing a game that is not about being a community advocate; it's about being an advocate for whatever he is for at that moment."
· Small paper in Beverly Hills has big voice