Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The AP's Trial Examiner

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The AP's Trial Examiner

Article excerpt

When Linda Deutsch began covering trials for The Associated Press' Los Angeles bureau in 1967, O.J. Simpson was a star running back at USC, Patty Hearst was a junior high school student, and Michael Jackson was the 9-year-old lead singer of a rising new music group. But in the years that followed, as each of those three and numerous others in and around Southern California have faced battles with the law, Deutsch has closely covered their criminal trials, earning accolades for accuracy, completeness, and most of all, balanced reporting.

During her 40 years in the AP bureau, her assignments have ranged from the Charles Manson trial in 1970 to the current murder case against record producer Phil Spector. In between, she's reported on nearly every major courtroom action involving big names, from Daniel Ellsberg to John Delorean. "I have the greatest respect for Linda," Judge Lance Ito, judge in the Simpson case, tells E&P in an e-mail. "Her reporting is precise, accurate, and balanced."

Ito was one of several notables who attended a 40th anniversary party for her in January. Others included defense attorneys for Michael Jackson and Robert Blake, and Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levenson, a regular TV commentator. The latter says Deutsch is "amazing, because she actually stays objective. She also takes in the whole scene."

For the 63-year-old Deutsch, who is single and claims to be "married to the AP," her approach is simple professionalism and curiosity. "I was a writer from the day I was born," she says, speaking by phone from her office in the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts building. "I was very lucky because I knew what I wanted to do for a long time." Living in the Hollywood Hills, among neighbors that include "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Doris Roberts, Deutsch says she is not swayed by the celebrity status of many of her subjects.

After covering some of the most chaotic court events of the 20th century, she says she still believes in the jury system: "Occasionally, they miss things, but for the most part, they get it right. For most of them in these cases, it is the most important thing they will do, so I think they really want to do it right."

A Perth Amboy, N.J., native, Deutsch got interested in news at age 12 when she was president of one of the first Elvis Presley fan clubs and published a club newsletter, "Elvis News," for about five years. (She plans to attend Memphis' Elvis Week in August.) She worked part time at the Perth Amboy (N.J.) Evening News and the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J., during college, graduating in 1965. AP CEO Tom Curley, himself a veteran of the Evening News, says Deutsch's reputation at the paper when he arrived was legendary: "She was someone everyone pointed to and said, 'Do what she does.'"

Deutsch was drawn to California in 1966 by an uncle who edited a small daily in Thousand Oaks, Calif. After less than a year at The Sun in San Bernardino, she headed to Los Angeles, where she became the only woman in a 20-person AP bureau. Her first big story came on June 5, 1968, when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles; she was in the bureau when the call came in after midnight from reporter Bob Thomas. "We filed and filed and filed all night," she recalls.

That led to work as a backup reporter during the trial of Sirhan Sirhan, Kennedy's assassin, in 1969. A year later, she was on the Charles Manson trial, which she described as "chaos" and "insane mayhem." Deutsch said the Manson trial also showed her the camaraderie of reporters. …

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