Thursday’s column ( #journalism )

Moe the Chimp and Octomom have something in common.

No. The pair is not headlining with the Amazing Bearded Lady and the Human Pin Cushion outside the pig races at a county fair somewhere.

They are part of what’s driving a huge change in local reporting around the country.

On the Internet, tales of Moe’s escape from a San Bernardino animal sanctuary last summer drove eyeballs to our Web site in amazing numbers. As a result we continued to cover the saga until it became clear Moe was no more.

As for Nadya Suleman, the La Habra woman who gave birth to the world’s longest-surviving set of octuplets, not only is she a one-woman baby machine, she is also is a force of nature on the Internet.

Our blog, Octorazzi, dedicated to Octomom’s every move, has seen so much Web traffic, it even drew attention from CNN’s Nancy Grace over the weekend.

We editors sit in our ivory tower, stroking our beards and discussing what we believe you want in the newspaper: The economy, swine flu, and city council skullduggery.

Sometimes it’s the sort of steady community-oriented coverage that afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Sometimes its nothing more than a story about the local Lions Club doing something nice for a blind senior.

Online you tell us you want Octomom, Moe, crime, crime and more crime.

In fact, most of this is journalism in the same way McDonald’s is food. It’s empty, tasteless and devoid of nutritional value.

The U.S. Senate took up a discussion of the future of newspaper journalism Wednesday. During a lengthy hearing before the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee, Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, called us “challenged.”

We are in fact challenged.

Unfortunately, those challenges extend well beyond Octomom and Moe. Twitter, Facebook and Google News are all perceived as threats to traditional newspapers.

“You are whistling past the graveyard if you don’t believe that’s the wave of the future,” said one participant in the hearing.

Others taking part in Wednesday’s hearing included David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun cops reporter, who created “The Wire” for HBO and Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post.

Simon rightly pointed out that “citizen journalists” (read bloggers) will never be able to do the sort of investigative journalism that remains the hallmark of newspapers. Huffington, on the other hand, defended her blog and the citizen journalists who contribute as the absolute future of reporting.

“The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day I believe we will have reached equilibrium.”

C-SPAN, which streamed the hearing live on the Internet, subtitled their video “Hearing to Examine the Future of Journalism.”

I guess there’s hope. Neither Moe nor Octomom were called upon to give an opinion.

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Moe chimp news


Esquire ran the definitive Moe story on its Web site today. The tale, by Richard Shapiro, tells the story of Moe through the words of St. James and LaDonna Davis. It’s a touching tale much of it familiar to residents of West Covina and the San Gabriel Valley.

Here’s the final paragraph of the piece titled “St. James, LaDonna and Little Moe: The Worst Story I Ever Heard.”


After all the years St. James and LaDonna shared with Moe and everything they’ve endured, how could he be gone forever? How could they not someday see their boy again?

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Richard, the helper monkey

If you thought Moe the Chimp or Homer Simpson’s pal Mojo were cool, you’ll want to know more about Richard the helper monkey. This from an article in the NY Times Magazine:


On a rainy day in November, I walked through a T. J. Maxx store in Springfield, Mo., with Debby Rose and Richard, her 25-pound bonnet macaque monkey — one of the most controversial service animals working today. Rose was wearing brown pants and a brown-and-gold-patterned shirt. Richard was wearing a brown long-sleeved polo over a white T-shirt with jeans and a tan vest that said “Please Don’t Pet Me I’m Working.” Richard stood in the child seat of Rose’s shopping cart, facing forward, bouncing up and down, smacking his lips and grinning as Rose pushed him down the aisles.

Richard is a hands-on shopper. If Rose pointed at a sweater or purse she liked, or a pair of shoes, his hand darted out to touch them. As we passed a pair of tan, fuzzy winter boots that Rose particularly liked, Richard leaned out of the cart and quickly licked one on its toe.

People stared as we walked. “Why do you have him?” they’d ask.

“He’s a service animal trained for my disability, kind of like a seizure-alert dog,” Rose told them, again and again.

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A new name for Moe

Various reporters and editors in the newsroom have been racking their brains to come up with a nickname for Moe the Chimp, who is still missing. Intern Thomas Himes suggests Moe-dini; while Managing editor Steve Hunt prefers Moe-squatch.

Crime Scene wants to know which you prefer (or perhaps you want to make one up?)
Here’s our poll:

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No sign of Moe, but the search forges on.

Moe the missing chimp continues to elude searchers. Friday will be the two week anniversary of Moe’s escape from Jungle Exotics, a Devore company that provides animals to the entertainment industry, and searchers have yet to find any trace of the mischievous chimp. 
That’s not to say there hasn’t been Moe sightings, one of the first unconfirmed sightings occurred at a nudist camp near Jungle Exotics.  This Sunday two separate calls to the California Highway Patrol reported a monkey, or a man in a monkey suit, running in and out of traffic near Big Bear.
But Michael McCasland, the man heading up search efforts for Moe’s owners, St. James and Ladonna Davis, still believes Moe is hiding in a canyon directly behind the enclosure from which he made his Houdini-like escape. McCasland, and area wildlife experts agree that a chimp could live for weeks or even months in the San Bernardino National Forest, that is if he didn’t fall victim to a rattlesnake bite.
McCasland is urging concerned Moe fans to donate money for a helicopter.  McCasland believes that flying through the canyons will scare Moe out.
As for me, my money is on Moe turning up in a NJ train yard.

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Tuesday’s column

The e-mail I received Sunday from my former colleague Phil Drake ended simply:

“P.S. Did they ever catch Moe?”

Monday morning it was the first thing I asked our intern Thomas Himes, who has been on “Moe Watch” almost since coming to the paper from his Ivy League university in Pennsylvania.

When another reporter questioned my news judgment, I responded, “How the hell did the Washington Post get access to the search for Moe? We’ve got to stay on this.”

About 30 minutes later, Thomas told me the closest thing to a Moe sighting over the long Fourth of July weekend was reports of a man in a chimp suit running in traffic near Big Bear.

“Yeah,” he said. “Someone said they saw a man dressed like a monkey off the side of the road. Or, maybe it was a monkey. No one’s sure.”

The story of Moe the chimp has grown to legendary proportions over the past several years. In the 1970s and ’80s he lived with St. James and LaDonna Davis at their Vincent Avenue home in West Covina.

The chimp starred in “B.J. and the Bear” – a TV take on Burt Reynolds’ “Smokey and the Bandit” – with a monkey!

As one of several chimps who played Bear, Moe and his human companion B.J. outwitted the dimwitted Sheriff Lobo in episode after episode.

After a run-in with the West Covina police in 1998 and a biting incident the next year, Moe was removed from the Davises’ house and placed at the Animal Haven Ranch near Bakersfield.

Then, on Moe’s birthday in 2005, the Davises were mauled by two jealous apes as they delivered a birthday cake to their beloved chimp. St. James lost his nose and his testicles defending LaDonna from the berserk animals.

Moe was moved again. This time to Jungle Exotics in Devore.

A few months ago the Davises were in the news again, when LaDonna’s purse was stolen from a shopping cart at a Target store. They held a press conference with super attorney Gloria Allred and a few days later the suspected purse snatcher was caught.

Moe’s story is big enough that the Washington Post, famed home of Woodward and Bernstein, paid reporter William Booth to travel to Devore last week and discuss Moe’s latest misadventure with the Davises.

Booth’s editors sent him here during a historic presidential election. He was given the assignment to cover a missing chimp at a time when oil and gas prices have reached all-time highs.

The hunt for Bin Laden has dragged on for years. The Iranians are about to go nuclear. Foreclosures are on the rise and banks like IndyMac of Pasadena are near collapse.

Yet, the Washington Post, the paper of record in our nation’s capital, has assigned a reporter to write about an escaped monkey.

There’s a good explanation though.

“Usually, a piece about an escaped chimpanzee is catnip to news editors, especially over a long holiday weekend. Like a good shark attack (or poodle-eating alligators or lurid panda sex), your missing-chimp story is a leafy green perennial of the news business,” Booth wrote.

I’ll second that.

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Get your Moe-ter running: A man in a chimp suit

Correspondent Thomas Himes, who is interning here for the summer will be providing periodic Moe the Chimp updates for Crime Scene. He said there’s been reports of a man wearing a chimp suit having been sighted in Devore, near where search and rescue teams are looking for Moe

Here’s his first update of the day…after this Tom is on his own …


Moe’s trail has grown cold. Four dogs were brought in to search for the missing primmate this past weekend, but have yet to find a scent.

“We just need a break, a sighting, a print, something.” Michael McCasland a spokesperson for Moe’s owners said.”We’re comfortable the dogs will be able to find him if they can pick up his scent.”

Searchers are hoping for volunteer helicopter pilots to assist in the search over the next few days.

“We really need helicopters to fly up there and scare him out of the Canyons,” McCasland said.

What would a Moe update be without a link to another site: Here’s what Lassie, Get Help has to say about poor missing Moe, (quoting the Washingotn Post):

Usually, a piece about an escaped chimpanzee is catnip to news editors, especially over a long holiday weekend. Like a good shark attack (or poodle-eating alligators or lurid panda sex), your missing-chimp story is a leafy green perennial of the news business.

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Moe’d down

A longtime subscriber from Walnut called this morning to say she’s had enough of Moe the Chimp. Here’s a short transcript of what she told me:


“I think we’ve had enough of Moe on the front page I’d like to see world events on the front page I dont’ think it should be that way.
I’m a long time subscriber in Walnut and what’s important in this world today is our safety not Moe the Chimp. We need other news on the front page and Moe needs to go inside the paper.

Meanwhile, Moe’s adventure through a nudist camp is heating up the blogs. Here’s a sample:

A “Morning Zoo” show in Florida had this headline, Toilet-trained chimp on the run in Calif. Forest. Here’s the link to WFLS.

Monkeys in the news goes with the nudist and rattlesnakes angle here

Trials and Trebulations has this story: “Moe and the US Celebrate Freedom”

Blogger Jessica Hardy reprints an Associates Press article then takes it to the Davises and Jungle Exotics:

Let’s talk about the chimp being subjected to summersaults or better yet jumping through hoops of fire or riding on an elephant’s back wearing a dress and some lipstick. With the name Jungle Exotic, I can only imagine what else might be going on between animals. If I was being molested for human purposes, I’d rather die in the wild too.


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