LA Times notes: New VP, partnership, data editor and obit

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Catching up to a few Los Angeles Times moves from last week. First, the paper announced a new partnership with KCET that comes with yet another new vice president who brings a politics or government resume. Publisher Austin Beutner is surrounding himself with so many people with political or government experience that some in the newsroom are openly wondering about his own eventual political ambitions. Remember, Beutner did run for mayor, briefly. Those previously hired include: Beutner's chief of staff Renata Simril from City Hall by way of the Dodgers, VP of Projects Suzy Jack from City Hall, and Times spokeswoman Johanna Maska and Emerging U.S. managing editor Alejandra Campoverdi from the Obama Administration. Nicco Mele, the Senior Vice President and Deputy Publisher, also worked for Howard Dean's campaign.

The new vice president is Ben Chang, who gets the title of VP and Events Editor. He "worked for nearly two decades as a State Department Foreign Service Officer with diplomatic postings overseas, at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City, and at the White House National Security Council in the Bush and Obama Administrations," per the Times announcement. He'll be in charge of the Festival of Books and the California Conversation series with KCET. When the Times made a big deal in June about interviewing Gov. Jerry Brown on the drought, it was Beutner rather than any of the journalists who did the interview. The California Conversation news with KCET extends that series.

The Los Angeles Times and KCETLink Media Group are partnering to further The California Conversation, a new way to explore California’s issues in depth. The collaboration is an innovative private-nonprofit partnership that combines the audience reach of the largest media organization in the West and one of the nation’s leading independent public broadcast and digital networks to lead the conversation on issues important to Californians across platforms.

The California Conversation will be a series of events throughout the year focusing on California topics – ranging from education and the environment to pop culture and technology. The series will be produced under the banner of KCET’s acclaimed news series “SoCal Connected” and broadcast on KCET in Southern California and Link TV nationally.

The LA Times and KCETLink started The California Conversation on June 9th with a conversation between Governor Jerry Brown and Publisher Austin Beutner on Water in the West….“California is where America comes to see its future,” said Austin Beutner, Publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune. “The California Conversation will focus on issues that matter most to Californians.”

Also, the Times' newsroom's most senior staffer (in years of service) is moving to a new job. Doug Smith, who will reach his 45th anniversary with the Times in September, is moving from data editor to senior Metro reporter. The new data editor is Ben Welsh. From the newsroom announcement:

Doug Smith, one of The Times’ most admired journalists, is hanging up his slide rule after a decade-plus as data editor and moving to a new assignment in Metro.

This would be would be cause for despair, but for one thing: Ben Welsh is succeeding him as head of the data team.

As a senior reporter in Metro, Doug will look for interesting yarns, characters, controversies and slices of life wherever they may be lurking. He will also pitch in on rewrite, and he will continue to team with colleagues on select data stories.

Doug is one of those rare journalists of whom it can be said that he’s done just about everything, and done it with distinction. He’s covered earthquakes, riots, wildfires, floods, the Iraq war, LAUSD scandals, motorcycle lane-splitting and much more. Major projects too numerous to name have been elevated by his involvement.


Ben has been at the center of our best data work since he first walked past the spinning globe more than seven years ago. He is the ultimate multi-hyphenate: programmer, digital trouble shooter, teacher, investigative reporter, innovator.

From investigative stories on the Fire Department’s 911 response times to digital innovations like Mapping L.A. and the schools guide, Ben’s influence is hard to miss. In addition to his work for The Times, he created the digital news archive PastPages and is co-founder of the California Civic Data Coalition, a team of developers dedicated to opening up public data. He’s active in NICAR and other digital journalism organizations and is a rock star at conferences and seminars.

And last week the Times' retired religion reporter Larry Stammer died after battling cancer. Before taking on the religion beat during a busy time, including the tenure of Cardinal Roger Mahony at the Los Angeled Archdiocese, Stammer covered the environment and Sacramento. He was 73 and died at home is La Crescenta. From the LAT obit:

An ardent Dodgers fan — his Facebook page attests to that — and a longtime devout Episcopalian and leader in his parish, Stammer spent most of his professional life at newspapers. He joined The Times’ Sacramento Bureau in 1975 and later moved to Los Angeles.

“He was a relentless watchdog in monitoring the work of the Air Quality Management District and exposing any lax policies that might lead to greater health threats to the public,” recalled Frank Sotomayor, a retired Times journalist who was Stammer’s editor on the environment beat.

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