L.A. Times editor's official reading list

Russ Stanton is taking key editors at the Los Angeles Times on a retreat this week to prepare them for the future. "If we don't chart a new course, others will do it for us," he emailed the staff. To get ready, he gave the editors some homework reading. The selection of authors and bloggers doesn't seem particularly deep or broad, but check it out for yourself:

From: Stanton, Russ
Sent: Monday, April 07, 2008 7:47 PM
Subject: Editorial planning retreat


This week, I'm taking two dozen of our editors out of the building for three days to develop a three-year plan for the newsroom.

This is the beginning of the process I alluded to in my first address to you as editor. I said then that we needed to get out of react-and-reduce mode, and get ahead of the changes affecting our industry so we can sustain our journalism for the long haul.

To prepare for the retreat, we had two half-day meetings last week: one dealt with change and how to cope with it; the other was a detailed look at The Times' readership and financial data.

The process of reengineering our newsroom will be a challenging one, but if we don't chart a new course, others will do it for us. A lot of energy and good ideas surfaced during last week's meetings, and we will take this momentum with us to the retreat.

I also dumped some homework on these editors, including the following reading material, which I'd like to share with all of you. Some of these are short, some are long. Some are blog posts, some are carefully researched books by academics. None of them contains the magic cure for our business. But taken together, they present a sample of interesting thinking about our industry.

"Good to Great" by Jim Collins: This 2001 book is an analysis of successful companies' attempts to distill the traits they share in a straightforward, easy-to-read way. As management books go, it does a pretty good job of forcing the reader to ask tough questions.

"Leading in Times of Change" by the Newspaper Assn. Of America: "Challenges rocking the newspaper industry call for new ways of thinking about markets, products and customers, and for new styles of leadership. Newspapers have begun to respond to myriad threats to the
industry and its business model, but newspaper leaders believe that the industry has failed to create an environment for true innovation. Full story

"The People Formerly Known as the Audience" by Jay Rosen:
"The people formerly known as the audience wish to inform media people of our existence, and of a shift in power that goes with the platform shift you've all heard about. Full story

"The Times Better Change" from Jeff Jarvis' BuzzMachine:
"The other day, when I noted that the hedge fund breathing down the necks of the NY Times Company board and management had acquired as much stock as the Sulzberger family, I said that strategic change in the company is inevitable and I asked you what you'd do with the business. Here are some of my answers…" Full story

"End of the Daily Deadline" by the Guardian: "This is the first day of the Guardian's new "web first" policy, which will see stories appear on this website before they are published in the daily printed paper. The editor, Alan Rusbridger, told the British trade paper the Press Gazette, 'I think it's not viable for newspapers to carry on with a once-a-day deadline because that's the way we've done it for 200 years.'" Full story

"Maybe it is Time to Panic:" For all their jaded posturing, journalists want to preserve something that has worked for two centuries: news media that can both make acceptable profits and perform Essential public services. Can this still be done? Probably, concludes Carl Sessions Stepp, in an article in American Journalism Review. Full story

These build on the Spring Street and Reinvent reports produced by our colleagues over the past two years.

We hope to have a plan pulled together by June and, of course, will share it with all of you. Rest assured that we still want to break news and do in-depth and investigative stories that matter to our readers. But we also are looking for ways to reimagine our business so that we can remain relevant for many years to come.

If these readings prompt new ideas or perspectives, I'd love to hear from you.

Russ Stanton

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