Trio of beat moves at the Times

New health care and regional air transportation reporters, and a new beat assigning a veteran reporter with a video camera to report on local government. Memo from California editor David Lauter:

Here are three happy announcements on new assignments for some excellent reporters. Please join me in congratulating each of them.

As I've said previously, the health care story in California is one of our most important, one which touches every reader. Every problem of the nation's health care system is on vivid display in Southern California -- crumbling hospitals, huge numbers of uninsured patients, exotic diseases. The likelihood of a ballot initiative this year that would fundamentally change the health care system in the state only heightens the importance of the subject. So it's urgent that we add additional reporters to that topic. Ron Lin will be the first addition to the team. Ron has been with us since 2004, when he came here as a Metpro trainee, fresh from UC Berkeley where he was editor of the Daily Californian. In the few years he has been here, Ron has established himself as a reporter with a quick and keen grasp of complex subjects. He has also demonstrated his skills in the online world. During last fall's storm of wildfires, he earned fame for the Google map he developed, which became one of the most used features of our web coverage. A few years back, Ron also spent a couple of weeks volunteering at a public health service clinic on a Cheyenne Indian reservation in South Dakota, so he's seen at least some of the system's complexities first hand. He'll use those skills and experience in tackling this often-complex, but vital topic. Ron will report to Alice Short.


Located on the edge of the continent, hundreds of miles from most other major metropolitan areas, our region is heavily dependent on its
airports. Covering them -- their problems with capacity, with safety and with expansion -- is a source of constant stories. Getting those stories right requires attention to detail, an understanding both of technology and politics and an abiding curiosity. So I'm happy to announce that one of our most experienced reporters will be moving into that assignment shortly. Dan Weikel came to the paper in 1989, starting in the Orange County edition, after previous stints at the Pasadena Star-News, the Daily Breeze and the Register. Over the past 19 years, he has covered a wide variety of beats in both Los Angeles and Orange counties, giving him a broad understanding of the region, which will serve him well in this assignment. He has spent the last several years writing about ground transportation. Now he'll get to fly above the gridlock -- or at least talk to the people who do. He'll start the new assignment after completing a project that should be wrapped up in a few weeks. He'll report to Bill Nottingham.

Back in 2005, Rich Connell and Robert Lopez traveled to El Salvador to chronicle the impact the multinational Mara Salvatrucha gang was having on that society. Along the way, they decided to rent a video camera and use it to document interviews and scenes they encountered. They discovered the power that video images could add to a print story. The series that emerged won The Times' multimedia award and made Rich an early convert to the world of multimedia reporting. Many of those same skills were on display in the stories Rich and Robert wrote last year on problems with the state's 911 emergency response system. Now, we're going to put Rich's skills to use more directly in a new assignment that will draw on both his extensive investigative experience and his multimedia talents. The assignment will focus on stories that examine the cost, performance and politics of government programs that touch the daily lives of Southern Californians. Each of the stories will have a significant multimedia component. At the same time, Rich will work with reporters throughout Metro to help us think of how to use these tools to enhance our journalism. As a 25-year veteran of The Times, Rich is ideal for the task of helping his colleagues learn some new tricks. He first joined the paper in the former South Bay edition and over the years has worked in the suburban sections, been an education writer, covered city government and won numerous awards for investigative reporting. Please join me in congratulating him as he begins a new chapter in a distinguished career.

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