LAT shuffles the soft side

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Some movement among editors on the second floor at the L.A. Times, where the Calendar and features staffs sit, was announced this afternoon.

Style editor: Rich Nordwind
Deputy entertainment editor: Betsy Sharkey
Weekend section: Michalene Busico*

Style editor Robin Abcarian moves to write features for the presidential campaign desk run by Don Frederick

* Busico is the ex-New York Times dining editor brought in last year to revamp the LAT's Food section. She also got responsibility for the new Home section as a senior editor essentially #3 under deputy managing editor John Montorio. At the time of her hiring, she and features editor Rick Flaste (#2) were an item; now that they are not, much of the Times newsroom had been expecting some adjustment in her duties. (Thursday 5 p.m. update: A senior LAT staffer who should know emphasizes to L.A. Observed the move had nothing to do with the relationship. Busico remains a senior editor with broader duties than the Weekend section, it is noted.) The memo (minus the backstory) that follows clarifies everybody's reporting lines:

To: The Staff
From: John Montorio, Deputy Managing Editor/Features

As many of you know, we've been thinking about fine-tuning the Features Department for some time and have already made a move or two. Now Robin Abcarian -- who served as Style Editor with such verve and intelligence and helped steer us through a challenging and exciting transition -- has asked to return to reporting. Her departure, later this month -- to write features stories off the Presidential campaign for the National desk -- will be a considerable loss for us, but the need to replace her sets in motion a series of significant personnel changes.

Rich Nordwind, who has been our stellar movie editor for more than five years, has clearly earned the right to move on to something terrific. So he will become our new Style Editor (reporting to Alice Short as well as to Rick Flaste and me). And I know he'll bring to that job the same energy, warm temperament, collegial finesse and sharp story sense that everyone here knows so well. I'm also confident that under Rich's direction the Style report will become an even more prominent part of our overall coverage.

Betsy Sharkey will take on the newly created role of Deputy Entertainment Editor. Betsy's work as TV Editor and now as Weekend Editor has always demonstrated a wonderful ability to collaborate with her colleagues and unparalleled enthusiasm and creativity, as evidenced by the liveliness of Weekend under her stewardship. She will report to Lennie LaGuire and will directly oversee movie coverage and help supervise our television coverage as well. She and Lennie already are at work on a plan to orchestrate our staff's considerable reporting and editing talents into an even more formidable entertainment team.

That leaves a remaining significant gap in one of our key enterprises. I've asked Michalene Busico, our Senior Editor currently overseeing the editors of Home and Food, to pull away nearly completely from those sections (except that she'll offer guidance from time to time to the editors but, mostly, to me) and take over the running of Weekend with an eye to building on Betsy's good work and expanding the franchise even further. I am extremely pleased that Michalene has agreed to do this. As a section editor she has proven time and again that she is world-class and can accomplish just about anything at an unrivaled level of sophistication and professionalism. Her work on the revamping of Food and the launching of Home has been instrumental in placing The Times at the very top in these fields among major newspapers. I greatly look forward to a new Weekend under her editorship. In that job she will continue to report directly to me. And in the interim, our Home Editor, Barbara King, and our Deputy Food Editor, Leslie Brenner, will also report to me.

These editing changes promise an exciting and invigorating start to the new year. We'll spend the rest of December preparing for the transition.

As consequential as these appointments are, they are an important first step in a far-reaching reorganization involving both reporters and editors. It will capitalize on what we've already achieved, patch over the cracks we've created while shaking things up and - most important - prepare us all for the next qualitative leap forward.

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