Time weighs in on LAT

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Time magazine's Los Angeles bureau chief, Terry McCarthy, has a piece in the current issue on John Carroll and the Times under the headline "Left-Coast Makeover." It profiles Carroll as an editor who likes to personally line edit major projects, dismisses the paper's circulation losses, and includes praise from an unlikely source:

Even Richard Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor who had long complained of the paper's liberal bias, is a convert, won over by such coverage as the paper's evenhanded reporting on racial tensions at a hospital in South Los Angeles. "I think Carroll has done a sensational job," says Riordan, whose plans to set up a rival paper are now consigned to the back burner...

Investigative reporting is Carroll's passion, and with 40 years of experience in newspapers and a nine-year stint on the Pulitzer Prize Board, he has a fine-tuned instinct for spotting prizewinning potential stories that he calls bell ringers. These, he says, are pieces that require in-depth reporting, have universal resonance and "tell me something I didn't know." His staffs won three Pulitzers while he was editor in Lexington and Baltimore, and since arriving at the Times, Carroll has helped line edit four stories that won Pulitzers including an expose of unsafe prescription drugs, whose opening paragraphs he reworked "at least a dozen times."

Some Times staff members charge that Carroll "edits for prizes" and complain that reporters who are not on the A-list have their work ignored. A few have left, including Robin Wright, a star foreign-affairs reporter, but the level of dissent is low. "There is a quality about him that makes you want to do your best work," says Steve Lopez, a former TIME writer who does a popular thrice-weekly column on Los Angeles.

The piece concludes that Carroll's goal is a total makeover of the paper he found when he arrived in 2000.

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