Read the memo

LANG papers take the logical next step into digital

The newspapers that make up the Los Angeles News Group have been gradually blending over recent months, and today take a big step toward being a regional news operation with the emphasis on digital — and less on geography. Carolina Garcia, for instance, is no longer editor of the Daily News but managing editor for enterprise and investigations across all the papers. There are new managing editors for digital news, digital operations and the "content center," though in each case the new MEs are still involved in "reader engagement" in the areas where they used to run the newspapers, and editors there will still report to them. The MEs will no longer supervise news coverage in their geographic areas.

The MEs will report to Michael Anastasi, the VP and executive editor of LANG, as do the previously announced opinion (Mariel Garza) and sports (Gene Warnick) editors for the group. "This structure emphasizes collaboration and a focus on LANG-wide strategic goals, rather than supervision of particular newspapers," Anastasi's memo says. "I expect much more daily decision-making to be pushed down to our city, senior and photo editors."

Anastasi also kudos Larry Altman of the South Bay Daily Breeze, who was given nice props by prosecutors last week for his role in investigating the death that led to the conviction of chef David Viens for killing and cooking his wife.

Whole memo below:

October 2, 2012

Michael A. Anastasi Vice President and Executive Editor Los Angeles News Group


Three months ago, our organization embarked on a restructuring of the editorial staff with the intent of becoming, operationally, a single newsroom across our Southern California footprint.

Our goal, as I've stated in each of the small-group meetings I've had (and continue to have) with many of you, is to deliver consistently outstanding journalism and to grow audience across all platforms.

In order to provide LANG with the right leadership, in the right places, for our rapidly-evolving news operation, I'm pleased to announce these appointments, effective Oct. 8:
Frank Pine becomes Managing Editor / Digital News. Frank oversees the daily news report throughout LANG. Working through the city and other editors, he will focus on what and how local news is being covered now, how it is being presented through all content verticals, and how and where editorial resources are deployed. Breaking news is a major focus, but so are advancing key events and real-time event coverage. Frank's responsibility is to continually ask: are we covering what's most important to our readers right now, in the right way, and is it reflected on our digital channels?

Toni Sciacqua becomes Managing Editor / Digital Operations. Toni develops and oversees plans for digital audience growth throughout LANG and also directs the development of robust, web-exclusive daily content and the deployment of content via the daily web plan. She analyzes metrics, digital presentation and is in charge of content expansion. Toni oversees the strategic plans for our websites, mobile, tablet, social, newsletters and news alerts. Contrasting her position with Frank's, Toni is continually asking: where do we need to be in one, two, three, six months? And how do we get there?

Carolina Garcia becomes Managing Editor / Enterprise & Investigations. Carolina oversees the planning and implementation of substantive and original journalism throughout LANG. She will directly oversee a team a journalists but also coordinate - in conjunction with our city and senior editors - the enterprise, watchdog, explanatory and investigative work from our teams in each newsroom. She will work closely with our digital M.E.'s to ensure packages include appropriate digital components.

Steve Hunt becomes Managing Editor / Content Center. Steve oversees both print and digital production as the Content Center becomes platform agnostic. He will ensure we are appropriately scheduled for digital and print production and handle schedules for weekends, holidays and the daily budget meetings. Steve will manage print space, set deadlines and ensure they are met, and manage equipment/software inventory and need. He will ensure our print editions are well-planned, well-designed and engaging.

These four managing editors all report directly to me and join Opinion Editor Mariel Garza and Sports Editor Gene Warnick as masthead members of the Senior Management Team.

This structure emphasizes collaboration and a focus on LANG-wide strategic goals, rather than supervision of particular newspapers. I expect much more daily decision-making to be pushed down to our city, senior and photo editors.

Although our managing editors will not be directly supervising the news report in our properties, they retain critical roles as chiefs of community engagement in their respective bases of operation. For Frank, that is San Bernardino, Ontario and Redlands; Toni, Torrance; Carolina, Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and Long Beach; Steve, the San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena and Whittier. Editors in each location will report to those respective M.E.'s, who also are members of the Editorial Board for issues impacting those areas.

The M.E.'s will need to closely collaborate to be successful. To that end, Frank and Toni are each other's backups, as are Steve and Carolina.

As members of the Senior Management Team, they'll also continue to receive additional assignments as needed. For example, Frank remains in charge of our conversion to Saxotech and the implementation of the print and web redesigns that go along with it. Carolina is in charge of our election coverage LANG-wide.

So, what's next? Today I am meeting with all of our editors to answer questions and to form a committee drawn from throughout LANG editorial that will define, as a single newsroom, who we are, what are our coverage objectives and where we are going. I expect that group to produce by the end of the year a document that comprehensively explains our mission and positions us for future success. We'll begin that process by sitting down and asking our colleagues from business operations, marketing, advertising and circulation for their thoughts. And, most importantly, we'll be listening to our readers.

Ultimately, we'll be making sure that our resources are aligned with the areas we determine are most important to our journalistic mission and audience. Some changes may happen fairly quickly (and some already have); others will take place as this effort continues and concludes.

One area that is not being addressed at this time is our Features coverage. It's become clear over the past few weeks that we need to first determine what exactly we want our Features team to do. Is their main responsibility producing our many special sections? Health coverage? Lifestyle coverage? Arts & entertainment? How broadly, community or L.A. - or both? And where does fit into the mix?

These are questions I expect to have answered as part of our thorough self-examination. In the meantime, Catherine Gaugh and Leo Smith will jointly oversee the Features team.

Over the past few weeks, we've already made a number of changes. We've improved our under-the-hood infrastructure so that our editors can talk to and work with each other daily, enhanced our planning processes, installed modern equipment (which remains ongoing), pushed down decision-making so we can be more nimble, and placed an emphasis on impactful, local journalism that publishes across LANG.

Due to your efforts, we've already seen many successes such as our recent special report on the 710 corridor, our coverage of Endeavor's arrival in L.A. and the Emmy's, our LANG-wide response to the Libyan crisis and the AEG sale.

Our community journalism meanwhile is as strong as ever. Reporter Ryan Hagen has owned the San Bernardino bankruptcy story. Brian Charles' reporting into alleged malfeasance in the Pasadena Police Department has led to the launch of investigations by the District Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice. Reporter Susan Abram did an outstanding job interpreting Pro Publica's data on nursing homes and her story was the model for the rest of LANG as well as how to best exploit DFM partnerships to produce meaningful journalism for our own readers.

And, just last week, Larry Altman was thanked by the prosecutor of killer David Viens for his dogged reporting that prompted the investigation that led to Viens' murder conviction.
You're doing spectacular work. More to come.


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