When the L.A. Times kills the California section and moves local news inside the A section next week, the result will be less versatile space for news, fewer feature stories, shorter stories overall because of the ad formats and a higher proportion of stories from Orange County since the paper will also stop the "zoning" of regional coverage. A memo detailing the changes from California Editor David Lauter also announces the columnists will appear on page 2 of the A section — that's been a big puzzler because of the desire to showcase the columns without taking away from the few desirable display spots for big news. Steve Lopez, I'm told, was especially upset about local news being moved inside the paper. His columns tend to run prominently on the front page of California, and there have been high-level discussions about trying to keep him happy. Local news will start on A3, so foreign and national news will be pushed back in the paper. And in a change from the original plan, California will still publish on Sundays, but in a back-assward way — it will be numbered as a continuation of the A section, and the columnists will stay on A2. Patterico posted the memo last night.
What does this mean for all of you and how you do your jobs?
First, let’s talk about what will not change. We’re still going to have the same mission: to be Southern California’s best and most reliable source of news on the subjects of greatest importance to our state and region. And because we’re still going to have roughly the same space to carry out that mission, our basic story mix will not change hugely. It’s vitally important that as our section configuration changes, we not lose sight of our priorities for good coverage. I want people to stay focused on the significant stories, the ones that really have impact on the communities we cover. In unsettled times, it’s easy for people to react by keeping their heads down and sticking to the routine. But if you keep your head down, you’ll miss what’s really going on. Don’t let that happen.
Overall, the new configuration will nudge us toward slightly fewer features and somewhat higher number of news stories, but we’re still going to want both. Currently, we try to have a mix of news and features on B-1. In the new configuration, we’ll still have a mix of stories, but the mix will be through the entire section, not on one page.