Harriet Ryan has been a senior correspondent for Court TV and "is comfortable on camera," the L.A. Times memo says. In Times fashion, the memo wraps her hiring to monitor celebrity legal activity in the cloak of muscling up to cover "one of our region's principal industries." All they mean by that is more stories about famous people. You know how residents of Los Angeles have been clamoring for more quality journalism on that. Memo from California Editor David Lauter:
Harriet Ryan joins the Times today as the first member of what will become a team covering one of our region's principal industries -- the manufacture and exploitation of fame and celebrity. More about the team in a bit, but let’s first focus on Harriet. For eight years, Harriet was the senior correspondent for CourtTV.com. During that time, she covered some of the highest-profile trials of the decade – Michael Jackson, Phil Spector, Scott Peterson – and dug deep into the collapse of the justice system in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
In addition to being a careful reporter and graceful writer, Harriet understands how to take her journalism across different platforms to reach new audiences. She is comfortable on camera. She developed a range of multimedia applications to accompany her stories. And she is the author of the book “Murder in Room 103: The Death of an American Student in Korea – and the Investigators’ Search for the Truth,” which was published in 2006.
She started her journalism career at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey after graduating from Columbia University with a BA in English.
In her new job, Harriet will focus on the famous – and infamous – people who populate our local courts. This will put her in position to cover some of the premiere local stories of our area on a subject, the "celebrity industrial complex," that we have not always covered as consistently as we should. Over the next few weeks, the team that will cover that larger story – one of our first Topics teams – will begin to take shape with more reporters and an editor to guide them. They will be tasked with telling the story of fame and wealth in Southern California. The team will involve editors and reporters from several parts of the paper and website. Interested candidates should contact me, Leo Wolinsky or Davan Maharaj. Meantime, Harriet will report to Matt Lait and will be sitting over near Andrew Blankstein. Please welcome her.
Also: Over at Slate, former Times editorial page editor Michael Kinsley — who was in town this weekend for Eli Broad's birthday bash and stopped by Scott Kaufer's monthly media gathering at Yamashiro — pokes fun at Tribune's embrace of counting bylines and column inches of copy to judge the productivity of Times reporters.
In other words, the company will assume that the more words you write, the more productive you are. Or, to put it another way, if you use many, many, many words to make whatever point you may be trying to make or fact you are attempting to report, you will be considered more productive than another writer who takes pains to be concise—that is, to use fewer words rather than more words.
If the average Los Angeles Times journalist produces 51 pages a year, as Michaels has calculated, this means that a 50-50 ratio will allow him to lay off 500 Los Angeles Times journalists, which is more than half of the current staff. Then, if he can persuade the remaining Los Angeles Times journalists to raise their productivity from 50 pages to 300 pages a year, he can dismiss five-sixths of the rest. That would leave something like 50 journalists to put out the Los Angeles Times every day. For now. As long as advertising pages continue to decline—and there is every reason to hope that they will continue to—editorial pages can be reduced as well, and more and more journalists can be let go in order to maintain the crucial 50-50 ratio of advertising to content.
This Michaels is clearly a bright man. It won't be long before he figures out that you can have an equal number of advertising and editorial pages if you have none of either and simply stop publishing the paper. That way you won't have to employ any journalists at all.
So, that's 1,003 words. Can I go to lunch now?