LA Times president puts the happy face on 2012

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Coming up on the end of the year, and the impending end to Tribune Company bankruptcy, Los Angeles Times president Kathy Thomson put out an all-hands holiday message this evening that takes the rosy view of just about everything. There's no mention of the recent newsstand price hike to $1.50 — $2.00 for the weekend "bulldog" edition — that came as an unpleasant surprise to those who still buy the paper on the street. (Typical of the email I've been getting: "It was difficult enough to always have four quarters. Carrying six quarters is absurd.") Also no mention of the upcoming sale of the Orange County plant that used to be the foundation of the LAT's future growth. But everything else! I'm not sure this kind of corporate cheerleading helps the lousy newsroom morale on Spring Street, but excitement and optimism is better than being threatened with cuts. And many of the signs are looking up.

She notes that the Times now publishes and distributes the local editions of USA Today and China Daily in addition to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Here's Thomson's memo.

From: Thomson, Kathy K
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2012 5:29 PM
To: AllLosAngelesTimesEmployees
Subject: Happy Holidays & Top 12 of 2012

Colleagues:

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are in full swing and 2012 is drawing to a close.

We’ve had a year full of accomplishments (more on that below) and I am proud to work alongside you.

This is the season to reflect and look forward. With Tribune Company’s imminent emergence from bankruptcy and the start of a new year, we are in an excellent position as the No. 1 source of news and information in Southern California. It’s an exciting time as we continue working together to deliver on the promise of bringing the world to California and California to the world. In a competitive landscape, this is a key differentiator. This perspective is at the very heart of all that we do and, beginning today, you can see that powerfully play out around Spring Street, Oly, OC, CCN and our NYC offices, most compellingly in the ideas and images captured here.

Before we leave 2012, let’s upend the traditional Top Ten and take a look at my Top Twelve highlights:

* Membership: the cross-departmental collaboration that brought our membership program to fruition last March is a true stand-out, and we continue to refine and enhance the many benefits of being a Times member. We are clearly delineating a monetization model for digital content and reinforcing that our news and information have value in every medium.

* Great journalism: we produced an array of high quality special projects such as “Dying for Relief,” about the epidemic of prescription drug deaths, and “Beyond 7 Billion,” a sweeping look at overpopulation and its consequences around the world. Our exposure of a buried history of child abuse within the Boy Scouts of America became a national story, and we led the way in exposing wrongdoing in the Sheriff’s Department, Tax Assessor’s office and various Southeast L.A. water districts. The Times’ dogged data-driven reporting also exposed major flaws in the L.A. Fire Department’s 911 dispatch system, resulting in a new push for reforms. Our 2012 election coverage simply soared and our politics team broke and made news. Our editorial pages turned out smart, persuasive endorsements on everything from the Obama-Romney race for president to the 11 statewide propositions on the November ballot, helping guide voters when they went to the polls. I am particularly proud of being able to bring talented new journalists to The Times, both established stars and rising young reporters. You can see their incredible contributions in our coverage of Libya, Egypt, immigration and South America; in the brilliant editing of projects; and in pitch-perfect food reviews. As importantly, we are bringing a digital sensibility to all of our editorial endeavors.

* Video: we began producing live online chats and undertook our first latimes.com video broadcast on election night, delivering hours of live coverage and enhancing our already outstanding political coverage. We also brought in third party content and made strides in capturing higher-margin pre-roll and video sponsorship revenue.

* Local news: we saw major growth in local traffic at latimes.com and hoylosangeles.com. LA Now continued to be the essential source for Southern California news and was increasingly at the center of Southern California conversations. We enhanced TCN’s digital offerings and mobile presence with the launch of Apple and Android apps for the Daily Pilot, and Glendale News-Press.

* Mobile: we launched a new mobile site to create an optimized reading experience on smaller screens such as smartphones and tablets. The responsive, visually-rich design has been a home run with mobile phone users, with a 50% increase in engagement.

* Entertainment: we saw our publisher bestow Richard Gere with Career Achievement honors at the Hollywood Film Awards, solidified The Envelope-EPIX deal to take our screening series and related video coverage to a new level and brought new bylines to Calendar, Hero Complex and The Envelope. And continued to cover all aspects of arts and entertainment like no other.

* Saturday: we reimagined how we present our health, food and home design coverage to overwhelmingly positive reader and advertiser reaction.

* Distribution & operations: we continued to create new revenue opportunities and now, in addition to the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, we print and distribute USA Today and China Daily across our marketplace. We also undertook our first major magazine distribution agreement for home delivery of Business Week and launched an innovative relationship to provide home delivery and marketing for Icelandic Glacial bottled water.

* Launched Trending Now, latimes.com’s dynamic new feature which presents the most popular news our readers are thinking and talking about, complete with tools to stir greater participation. Take a look at Trending 2012 for our top trending stories of the year.

* Launched our new digitally-focused How California Thinks brand campaign, driving online engagement.

* Team LA Times: established a cross-departmental committee to create team-building and civic engagement opportunities for employees.

*THE TASTE, Festival of Books and Travel Show: home runs!

That’s just a sampling of our “best of” and I look forward to a 2013 filled with more of the fearlessness, courage and purpose you bring to your jobs each and every day.

Happy holidays,

Kathy

LA Observed photo: LA Times building


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