Local Papers Say No on Measure B

LOS ANGELES—In what can only be seen as a sweep of the local print media, four Los Angeles-area newspapers have published No on Measure B endorsements, including the city's leading paper, the Los Angeles Times. In addition to the Times, the Daily News also came out against passage of the mandatory condom initiative that is being sponsored solely by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as did the Daily News' sister papers, the Daily Breeze and the Long Beach Press-Telegram, in separately published but identical endorsements.

The Times subhead encapsulated its opinion of the measure: "Though it is well intentioned, requiring the use of condoms in adult movies is likely to stymie L.A. County government and bring little benefit to performers."

The Daily News, Daily Breeze and Press-Telegram summarized their view of the measure thusly: "Measure to force condoms in porn films is redundant and could harm an important local industry."

The Times is of course a part of the Tribune Media Group. The other papers are part of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which also includes the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Bernardino Sun, Redlands Daily Facts, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News and Whittier Daily News.

In terms of the reach of the papers that came out against Measure B today, the Times currently has a daily circulation of just over 1.2 million. According to the Los Angeles Newspaper Group website, the Daily News has daily readership of 441,000, the Press-Telegram 236,000 and the Daily Breeze has 247,000. Online viewership adds many millions of eyeballs per month to those numbers.

Interestingly, the editorial boards for the Times and the LANG papers arrive at the same conclusion by very different routes, which may not be so surprising considering the passionate disagreements surrounding the issue and the relative lack of verifiable data about the subject. With both sides throwing contradictory numbers at the voters of Los Angeles, adding confusion to an issue about which most people are already sorely uninformed, it's understandable that editorial boards come down against the measure despite having completely different perspectives about the most important aspect of the issue.

The Times, for instance, in making an about-face from its support last year for the city ordinance that tied mandatory condom use to the issuance of filming permits, today took a somewhat awkward position in support of the idea of mandatory condom use for adult performers, but only "if Los Angeles County could demonstrate that it was ready, willing and able to enforce a permit and condom requirement or that producers would not simply evade the requirement by leaving the county..." Because those thresholds cannot be guaranteed, however, the paper segued into a more libertarian stance, arguing that despite its view that "performers should use condoms" and that "producers should encourage them to do so," that "the power of law to make them do it is limited. So is the desirability of always turning to government and lawmaking to address all dangers."

Put another way, the Times editorial board wishes that government was in a position to enforce the law, and producers and talent were sufficiently in support of it, but because they are not the result will be a "Let's pass it and see what happens" scenario, which, it concluded, is "a bad way to make law because it puts government, or voters, on a track toward regulating all kinds of conduct without any hope of enforcing the requirements fairly and equally, and that in turn undermines the power of government."

If you are confused about where exactly the Times comes down on mandatory condoms, so are we, but at least the paper is honest enough to realize that mandatory condom enforcement is a big mess in the making, and that the wisest course of action is therefore to say no.

The Daily News, on the other hand, appears to have no such conflicting feelings, and did not feel the need to agonize over the belief that passing such a law is the right thing to do if only everyone was on board and the law was enforceable. Instead, the paper looked at whether such a law is necessary in the first place.

"The real question is whether the threat of disease posed by the porn industry is serious enough to warrant the effort and expense called for by Measure B," stated the editorial. "The newspaper's editorial board does not believe the proponents of the so-called Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act have proven that case. We urge a 'no' vote on Nov. 6."

It continued, "At issue is how much danger the adult-film industry promotes. The industry itself, which opposes the measure because it says porn with condoms is less popular with fans, puts up quite a fight over how to interpret health statistics.

"The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the measure's major backer, contends the risk of sexually transmitted diseases for adult film performers is many times higher than for the general population. But the industry says those numbers are misleading, based on test results that include people who seek work in porn films and are rejected for having STDs."

The writers then cited the claim by infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Miao that performers have lower infection risks than the general population, as well as claims by the industry stating that "nobody has contracted HIV on a porn movie set in the United States since 2004." But the number that seems to swing the pendulum for the News was the claim by the Free Speech Coalition recently that "despite the image of Southern California and the San Fernando Valley in particular as the porn capital of the world, only 280 porn performers actually live in L.A. County year-round."

Acknowledging that many voters may decide to vote for the measure on moral grounds, the Daily News found it nonetheless "instructive that the Valley Industry and Commerce Association opposes Measure B. VICA might have been expected to veer from its usual anti-regulation philosophy to protect the Valley's good name, but its board of directors voted unanimously to stand up for porn producers, saying new restrictions could endanger 10,000 legal local film jobs."

The Daily News editorial board therefore concluded, "Everybody wants to protect health. The question is whether the adult-film industry is a big enough threat to warrant Measure B's solutions. The editorial board is not convinced, and we recommend the measure's defeat."