By Mark Lacter, October 4, 2013
Wish I knew. Here's another case where the embarrassing dearth of news coverage about the port leaves a big hole. The Long Beach Press-Telegram suggests that Geraldine Knatz was pushed into "retirement," but for reasons not at all clear. Maybe it involved having to rollback portions of the Clean Trucks Program, which was aimed at reducing the number of polluting trucks operating at the facility (though other parts of the law remain in place). Or maybe it was a controversial rail yard that would make it easier to transfer cargo - but which has gotten environmental groups up in arms. Or maybe it was just the traffic - through August, cargo shipments at the Port of Los Angeles were down 5.6 percent compared with a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach's numbers are up sharply. Did that have anything to do with it? What's stunning is how little we know about the executive director of the nation's busiest port, which handled more than $273 billion in cargo last year and is responsible for 3 million jobs. Knatz has worked at the L.A.-Long Beach port complex her entire career, and from my limited vantage point, appeared to be effective (not to mention being one of the few women port managers in the world). If the mayor is so keen on greater transparency, why the pro-forma announcement about Knatz's departure? And why aren't local business reporters giving this a look? Like I said, embarrassing. By the way, here's what I wrote about port coverage after the strike last December. Doesn't seem like much have changed:
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.