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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

I don't know if I should be insulted by the headline in the new issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

 

It's the annual Best of LA

issue, listing 101 of the magazine's favorite things. Number 16 is…Blog by an Ex-LA Times staffer.

 

Wait. I'm an ex-Times staffer. I was an editor and reporter for more than 20 years. And I've been doing a blog for six years.

 

I'm even on the masthead of the magazine as a contributing writer, and have appeared in its pages numerous times.

 

But I couldn't quarrel with the magazine's pick. It's a good choice.

 

I'll just have to be satisfied that the editors likely discovered SoCalMinds.com from my post

introducing the site at LA Observed back in May.

 

SoCal Minds

is a solid example, to me, of the latest wave of maturity in the Los Angeles blogosphere. Its appeal is not in the technology, nor is it for readers who are mainly excited by the coolest new applications of technology.

 

The site is elegantly simple in design and concept -- and all about the content.

SoCal Minds does nothing more than present an informed sampling of intriguing research, ideas and other intellectual activity at Southern California institutions -- universities, think tanks, cultural centers.

 

Its roll of sources runs, alphabetically, from the Annenberg Center for Photography -- and Art Center College of Design -- to Zocalo

. That's the public lecture forum that LA Observed helps sponsor.

 

On the site today at SoCal Minds are posts on a Claremont-McKenna analysis of the cost of doing business here. A UCLA report on the global climate. A RAND study on how health care costs are a drag

on employment and corporate growth.

 

Not the usual topics for blogs originating in LA, although that is changing.

SoCal Minds was launched last spring by Craig Matsuda, who I knew as a veteran editor on the foreign desk and in other sections of the Times.

He left during the paper's recent epic downshift in ambition and depth, which was brought on largely by the collapse of the newspaper industry's old advertising model.

Now Matsuda consults and writes freelance, and compiles each day's report on SoCal Minds at his home in Glendale.

He reads through reports, studies, press releases and websites and selects the material he thinks deserves an audience.

It's not just shoveled on line. He sifts and ponders and serves as a filter, then summarizes the findings or idea with a minimum of commentary.

His value to readers is not in crafting snarky darts or laurels.

As Los Angeles Magazine put it, the Internet is blooming with smart new blogs that rise above the standard navel gazing. SoCal Minds hunts for braininess in the city.

KCET, the public TV station in LA, is aiming high with some of its blogs

too.

 

The roster is definitely mixed in ambition and execution, but kudos for giving a forum to author DJ Waldie's deeply considered interpretations of Southern California's cities and suburbs.

 

Another of the KCET blogs focuses on local think-tanks and public policy institutes

, this week with a series of interviews on Santa Monica's RAND.

 

They are of a piece with personal blogs such as Clifford Johnson's Asymptotia

, written by a professor in the USC Physics and Astronomy Department. I've enjoyed his posts about riding his bike through city streets and about spending the night at the Mount Wilson telescopes, as well as his thoughts on hard science.

 

These higher-brow blogs don't have the global audience of Perez Hilton or TMZ. Never will, probably.

But in a city that's adjusting to its established media going decidedly low brow, they serve an important, and pleasurable, purpose.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

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