Today's Los Angeles Times sports section carries a story on NASCAR racing under the byline of Times Staff Writer Ed Hinton. One problem: readers (and probably most Times staffers) don't know that Hinton doesn't work for the Times, but rather for the Sentinel in Orlando, Florida. In the new spirit of Tribunian cooperation and cost-cutting, the Times sports section will pick up stories from Hinton at the Sentinel and Olympics writer Phil Hersh at the Chicago Tribune and pretend to readers that they are Times reporters. Sports editor Randy Harvey explains the departure from past practice in a memo that says it was his idea. Some background: Tribune bean counters tried with little success under sports editor Bill Dwyre to force the Times to share sports stories and writers with Tribune's smaller, lower-quality papers — to act more like a newspaper chain. The Daily News and the L.A.-area Singleton papers do this a lot, not just in sports but in politics and entertainment coverage. Now it comes to the Times, where Harvey has also responded to tight budgets by slashing hockey coverage. When you see the TSW label now on L.A. Times bylines, know that it may not be so.
Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 5:41 PM
Subject: staffing news
Two additional announcements that will help us with the Olympic and motor sports beats:
To assure that our Olympic coverage continues to be first rate, we have reached an agreement with the Chicago Tribune to use Phil Hersh. And to augment our auto racing coverage and help give Jim Peltz more national exposure for his fine work, the Orlando Sentinel's Ed Hinton will team with Jim to give us far more expanded staff coverage. Hersh and Hinton will both take Times Staff Writer bylines, though their primary employers remain Chicago and Orlando. And Jim will get a staff writer byline in the Tribune, Sun-Sentinel and Sentinel when they use his stories.
This is a departure from how we have covered these beats, although it is not unprecedented within Tribune newspapers. Hinton has been the primary auto racing writer for three newspapers -- the Tribune, Sun-Sentinel and Sentinel -- in recent years in an arrangement that has worked very well for them.
As for the auto racing beat, NASCAR has emerged as a major sport, with continued growth in popularity from coast to coast. Ed, long recognized as one of the most knowledgeable NASCAR reporters in the nation, will give us coverage of most races from the East, while Jim will provide coverage of races in the West for us as well as the other Tribune papers. Both will cover the most important races, in Daytona and Homestead. There are still details to work out, but Ed's first story for us is scheduled for Thursday.
You probably will have some questions. I'll try to answer some that I would have.
Q. Did Tribune Co. dictate this as part of a content sharing initiative?
A. No. We proposed it. It was the best way we could think of under the circumstances to maintain our high standards of Olympic coverage and to enhance our auto racing coverage. I know we have several people within our staff who could develop into outstanding Olympic reporters, but we don't have time for that development between now and the Beijing Games.
Q. Was this done to save money?
A. Yes and no. We will save money on both beats, though not as much as you might think because Jim will still be covering at least as many races as he does now. There will be more savings in the Olympic area, but that is money that will be reallocated to enable us to produce more enterprise stories and projects.
If you have more questions, please ask.
Randy and Mike James
* Not surprised: A few days later, the Times changes its mind.