Read the memo

LA Times loses the sports editor and a tech reporter

Thumbnail image for latimes-building-aerial-tig.jpgLos Angeles Times sports editor Mike James informed his staff yesterday that he will be leaving soon. Today the memo went out to the newsroom. Expect more to follow as newsroom staffers, especially the older ones, look to put the sour working atmosphere of a contracting newspaper behind them. By the way, the Los Angeles News Group has also had some high-level departures in the past week.

From the note to the Times newsroom:

To: yyeditall
Subject: Message from Davan Maharaj and Marc Duvoisin re: Mike James retirement

To the staff:

He cuts a dapper figure: wavy silver hair combed back and the best casual wardrobe in the newsroom.

He plays golf to a 7 handicap, has a wickedly dry sense of humor and, like all of his Sports kin, he’s absolutely impervious to the stress of deadline.

Oh my, will we ever miss Mike James.

After 38 years in the business, 27 of them in The Times’ Sports department and the last five as its unflappable leader, Mike has decided to retire and spend more time with his golf clubs and his granddaughters.

Under Mike’s watch as Sports Editor, the Lakers rose and fell, and the Clippers became winners. Another L.A. team few of us had heard of – the Kings – won a couple of Stanley Cups. A parking lot magnate from Boston bought the Dodgers, drove the team into bankruptcy and wound up even richer than he was before. (No one ever said Sports in L.A. were boring.) The only thing Mike couldn’t accomplish was reeling in an NFL franchise, though he did try.

All the while, Mike kept the section and website humming, winning 16 Associated Press Sports Editors section awards and 18 writing awards. APSE has named The Times’ sports section to its list of the nation’s top 10 every year since Mike became Sports Editor in 2009.

Mike graduated from Trinity College, the alma mater of legendary Times sports columnist Jim Murray, in 1971 with a degree in psychology. Mike spent a few years on the ski patrol in Stowe, Vt., before launching his journalism career, working in Stowe and Burlington, Vt., and Hartford, Conn. At the Free Press in Burlington, he was named state sportswriter of the year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Assn.

In 1985, he pulled his beat-up car out of Hartford, with his Great Dane in the passenger seat, and headed for Los Angeles. He started with The Times as an assistant sports editor in the Orange County edition. Four years later, he moved downtown and eventually became assistant and then senior assistant sports editor.

He took a break in 2000, leaving to help FOX launch a sports website, and returned two years later.

An avid golfer, James has covered the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Among his more notable works was a 2000 story on increasing rowdiness among fans at golf tournaments.

But his signature moment was persuading President Bill Clinton, also an avid golfer, to take time out to write a preview of the 1997 U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

“On the day we went to press,” Mike recalls, “we had a deadline of 3 p.m. He took us to 1 p.m. He filed his story, it wasn’t exactly what I had asked for, so I rewrote it, sent the rewrite back to his press secretary, and she said it was OK.”

Please join us in congratulating Mike on an amazing career at The Times. We will sure miss his grace and civility, but we wish him and his wife, Jane, a wonderful retirement.

Davan and Marc

Also, Bay Area tech reporter Robert Faturechi — until recently an investigative reporter on the county beat — has left the Times for ProPublica. That's per Aron Hillel at LA Weekly, who also says based on a source that 48 editorial staffers have left in 2014. That's not a stat I can confirm, but the sense of unrest in the newsroom is real. The number originated as far as I can tell with a farewell note last week by a copy editor who wrote she was "Choosing poverty over exhaustion" — she estimated that 46 staffers had left this year. I noted yesterday the retirement of reporter Rich Simon of the Washington bureau. Joe Flint, who left recently for the Wall Street Journal, was probably the highest profile departure lately, along with Foreign Editor Mark Porubcansky.

But the Washington bureau is also hiring — in fact, Times flack Nancy Sullivan told Aron the LAT has recently added ten new hires.

Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2014 1:40 PM
Subject: Amy Fiscus -- Assistant Editor, Washington Bureau
To: The Staff
From: David Lauter, Washington Bureau Chief
I’m extremely happy to announce that Amy Fiscus will be joining us as an editor. Amy comes to us from the AP, where she has won a reputation among both reporters and fellow editors for intelligence, dexterity with copy and keen news judgment. As an editor on AP’s East region desk, Amy directed significant enterprise on subjects such as the Affordable Care Act while also working on some of the biggest breaking news stories of the past few years, including coordinating on-site coverage of the Newtown school shooting. In between those assignments, she edited the manuscript for “Enemies Within,” Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo’s book on the problematic record of the N.Y. Police Department’s intelligence unit. “Reporters enjoy working for her. Everyone likes her. Who the hell says that about an editor?” said one of her colleagues when asked recently to assess Amy’s work. Before working at AP, Amy was an editor at the Charlotte Observer. She’s a graduate of the University of Missouri journalism school. She’ll start Aug. 18. Please join me in welcoming her on board.

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