LA Times changing up in Mexico City

tracy-wilkinson-lat.jpgIt's changing of the guard time at the Los Angeles Times bureau in Mexico City. After seven years, bureau chief Tracy Wilkinson is reportedly moving to a new beat in Washington, D.C. Patrick McDonnell, the Beirut bureau chief, is moving to Mexico soon. And the physical bureau closes as of Friday, apparently, with reporters to be working in the future out of their homes. The New York Times has already moved its Mexico correspondents out of a physical bureau; it's a growing trend for U.S. newspapers that still keep staffers overseas, and even for national correspondents deployed here in Los Angeles. When leases expire, it saves money to not rent and furnish a physical office if the reporters are willing to work from their homes.

There was a flurry of excited and I'd have to say agitated response at the Times this afternoon when an email to the entire staff from Wilkinson, and addressed to publisher Austin Beutner as well, made it sound as if the paper was pulling out of Mexico entirely. When I asked Beutner to confirm, since leaving Mexico would seem at odds with his vision of a California-dominant media outlet, Times' spokesperson Johanna Maska got in touch to make clear that, rather than closing down in Mexico, the Times is moving fresh leadership there and expanding. "We're doubling down on our commitment to Latin America," Maska told me.

The LAT's second reporter spot in Mexico has been open since Richard Fausset left for the New York Times Atlanta bureau in May 2014. Sounds like he's being replaced now, with possibly more help on the way. An email to the newsroom this afternoon from editor Davan Maharaj divulged the McDonnell-to-Mexico City posting and added that the paper is interviewing "to fill more positions in Mexico."

From: Maharaj, Davan
Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2015 3:00 PM
To: yyeditall
Subject: Mexico

To the staff,

Patrick McDonnell, our Beirut bureau chief who has produced some of the most courageous war reporting on the Syrian civil war, will become our new Mexico bureau chief in the coming months. In addition, we are interviewing candidates inside and outside the newsroom to fill more positions in Mexico.

We plan to further expand our coverage of Latin America, which remains one of our most important coverage areas.


Wilkinson, a Times reporter for 28 years, has been one of the paper's top foreign correspondents dating back to the Balkans wars in the 1990s. She has been posted previously in Central America, Vienna, Rome and Jerusalem and has covered a lot of war zones, as well as the horrors of Mexico's drug wars. Her book, “The Vatican's Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century,” has been translated into a dozen languages. I don't know yet what the Washington beat is they have in mind for her.

Wilkinson was one of the three LA Times correspondents injured in the New Year's Eve 2003 bombing outside a nightclub in Baghdad. You might remember also that her husband, journalist and reporter advocate Mike O'Connor, died in Mexico City late in 2013. O'Connor was a former reporter for CBS 2 in Los Angeles and other media outlets.

Photo of Tracy Wilkinson: LA Times bio

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