Maska and Obama in her hometown of Galesburg, IL. White House photo by Pete Souza.
Johanna Maska joined the fledgling Barack Obama for president campaign in 2007, slogged through Iowa in that first winter, and most recently has been director of press advance at the White House. But that was then and this is now —' 'tis the season for the Obama old-timers to find their new post-White House landing spots, and Maska found hers. On May 1 she will become the vice president for marketing and communications for the Los Angeles Times. In a rah-rah piece for Medium.com arguing that the Times is the place to be now, she shows that she is highly prepared to be the paper's top PR spokeswoman. She lays out the current PR theme for the paper, at least to national audiences: a lot of outsiders with tech savvy have arrived to reinvent LA's legacy newspaper. "So why is this millennial Mom leaving the Obama orbit for legacy media?," she writes. "Because the LA Times is different. And because it is absolutely essential that it thrives." Excerpt below.
She's the second recent hire with strong Obama ties: Alejandra Campoverdi joined the Times last month to work on the new multi-culture and immigration site the Times is growing with journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.
The talking points from Maska's piece:
The LA Times has new, exciting leadership. Folks with some of the same sense of mission, tech expertise and boundless energy that I found when I started on the Obama campaign.
Publisher and CEO Austin Beutner, who has a tremendous record of accomplishment, took over last year bringing his savvy to the company. He’s recruited a new team. Deputy Publisher Nicco Mele, a digital native lured from Harvard, is exploring new ways to deliver news. Chief Revenue Officer Don Reis, formerly of The Wall Street Journal and ESPN, is delivering world class solutions to sponsors and advertisers. Chief of Staff Renata Simril, an accomplished task manager, is ensuring good ideas get great execution.
That team helped recruit Mitra Kalita — who was involved in founding one of India’s leading business news sites before taking her ideas to Quartz. And NYT senior editor Larry Ingrassia, who was lured to the West Coast to intertwine award-winning journalism with entrepreneurial endeavors. They join accomplished LA Times veterans, Editor Davan Maharaj and Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin.
Innovation means some changes, but these will only strengthen the vitality of the LA Times’ core mission. The LA Times will continue to deliver essential news and information.
There you have it. By the way, on Facebook the LAT's former managing editor for digital defended the Times against charges of Obama and liberal bias — Jimmy Orr came to the paper from the Republican side and for awhile co-wrote the paper's very partisan and pro-Republican blog when Andrew Malcolm was there. "I worked for two Republican U.S. Senators, two Republican Governors, and was a spokesman for a very Republican President of the United States," Orr says on Facebook. "I'll tell you first-hand, the Los Angeles Times newsroom was non-partisan." Orr left earlier this year for a Colorado startup.
The Times's previous chief spokeswoman, Nancy Sullivan, left in February.
Brief update: Vargas tweets Beutner addressing the team this morning.