The L.A. Times has begun moving to fill some of its recent unexpected openings on the Calendar and feature side. First to benefit: Carina Chocano, who is moving over from TV critic to be film critic, replacing Manohla Dargis. Paul Brownfield slips in to Chocano's old TV slot. And from outside, Maria Russo has been hired from the New York Observer to fill the new position of assistant entertainment editor for criticism. The memo is posted below:
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2004 11:44 AM
Subject: Staff Changes Features -- Movie, Television Critics; Assistant Entertainment Editor/Criticism
To the Staff:
As you know, recent decisions by (soon-to-be-former) colleagues have left us with a couple of empty critical chairs. Where others might have seen only loss, we also saw an opportunity to create significant new showcases for two of our own most gifted writers and thinkers, and to augment our talent pool by recruiting for them an editor of equal brilliance.
Here's the happy result of that opportunity:
Carina Chocano, who has beguiled readers with her witty prose and original mind since joining The Times as television critic last year, will become our new movie critic, joining the team that Kenneth Turan, our cinematic eminence, has led superbly since 1991. Carina, working closely with Kenny and with Kevin Thomas, will help carry on and expand our film report's tradition of strong reviewing, ambitious commentary and sophisticated essays. Carina brings a vast knowledge of popular culture and a lively critical imagination to the assignment, as well as a longstanding interest in film theory, history and production. Before coming to The Times, Carina worked as a staff writer and critic at Entertainment Weekly and as the television critic at Salon. She also has written for publications including the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review. Her satirical relationship guide, "Do You Love Me Or Am I Just Paranoid?" was published last year. Her work also has appeared in the humor anthology "More Mirth of a Nation" and in the forthcoming "Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass and Cultural Shifting."
Moving into the role of television critic is Paul Brownfield, whose distinctive feature writing and marvelously wry comedic voice in the Here and Now column have established him as one of the paper's signature talents. Paul, who joined The Times as a television reporter in 1998, brings with him a deep, insider's knowledge of Hollywood and a keenly discerning eye for its best and worst -- just the sort of vision a television critic requires. In Paul's new role, the trademark qualities of his writing -- intelligence, sophistication, skepticism and a distinctive brand of humor -- will be on prominent display. Among his memorable recent pieces are an acerbic pre-Oscar essay on Bill Murray and a nuanced portrait of Mitzi Shore and her fading Comedy Store, which just won an L.A. Press Club Award for feature writing. Before coming to The Times, Paul covered arts and entertainment for The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English, and received a masters of fine arts in creative writing at Emerson College, where Ploughshares -- one of America's most distinguished literary magazines -- is published. Paul will join forces with Robert Lloyd, who will continue to add his much-appreciated sly humor and idiosyncratic sensibility to our TV criticism.
Talent like this demands great editing, so we've created the new position of assistant entertainment editor for criticism and found the ideal person to fill it. She is Maria Russo, now features editor of the New York Observer, who will join The Times next month. She brings an extraordinary depth of experience to this assignment. She supervised coverage of cultural features, film criticism and book publishing at The Observer, edited at the New York Times Book Review and Salon and has written for publications including the New York Times Magazine and Washington Post Book World. (And she was the only candidate for the job who not only had a Ph.D. in English and comparative literature from Columbia but also played Division One volleyball at Georgetown.) Maria and her family will move to Los Angeles this summer, and she officially will begin work here on Aug. 9. She will report to our exceptionally versatile Deputy Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey, who leads our film coverage, while also helping to oversee our television report.
These appointments are the first in a series of initiatives designed to take our already strong entertainment coverage to even higher levels as the summer progresses. So stay tuned.
John Montorio, Deputy Managing Editor
Lennie LaGuire, Entertainment Editor/Features
July 8, 2004