Los Angeles Times editor Davan Maharaj is feeling very good about his paper's performance on the San Bernardino shootings. In a Friday night memo titled "Rising to the Occasion," he crows that the Times without those 80 veterans who left recently is just as good as before, and even better online. He even resumes using his favored salutation: "Comrades."
The LAT's coverage of the awful news has been very good, as I said in a post on Thursday. Though not without the tradeoffs expected with a smaller staff and less flexibility in printing. So many reporters were pulled into San Bernardino duty that not much else has gotten covered locally. Also, if Maharaj really wants to compare, the old LA Times that had multiple printing plants and fewer paying customers taking up press time would have been able to publish all the San Bernardino news and a California section. The Times has been getting around limitations on the presses, depleted editor ranks and super early news deadlines (driven by press capacity) by killing the California section each day so they can print a section that contains all the San Bernardino news. It's billed as an "extra" section but it's just California renamed. That's why none of the San Bernardino coverage has actually appeared on the front page of the LA Times. It's a tradeoff but gets the job done. Same with the exhaustion I'm sure many of the staff now feel. It goes with a big story like this, in any newsroom.
By the way, a Times reader sent me this note this morning: "Entire section on San Bernardino massacre was missing from my paper in San Diego Saturday. A note was stuffed in the paper saying there were production problems and they'd try to deliver it Sunday. How many were affected?" Sorry, I don't know how many.
Here's Maharaj's latest memo. The kudos are well deserved.
Subject: Rising To The Occasion
Date: Fri, 4 Dec 2015 20:20:39
From: Maharaj, Davan
For anyone wondering what the new Los Angeles Times was going to be like, they know now. You’ve been showing them all week. It’s good. Really good. Exceptionally good.
It’s like the old Los Angeles Times, but even faster and more digital.
When big news broke in San Bernardino – tragic, heart-wrenching news – our newsroom did what it does.
You swung into action and got scoop after scoop. You informed readers with live blog reports online. You crafted rich narratives. You wrote penetrating profiles. You shot memorable photos. You produced engaging videos and graphics.
You used social media to reach a huge audience.
Readers took note: “The LAT is demonstrating its enduring capacity to make sense of the chaos,” one wrote in an email, echoing what many others said. “I've seen hundreds of tweets crediting your collective work – the 16 reporters on the field filing LA Now posts and real-time tweeting whatever they learn... It's the one glimmering reassurance I lean on when I have no idea what the hell is going on. The big feature pages that you've introduced so far are rock solid, credible, informative, and genuine.”
Our competitors took note, too. “It’s amazing to see how the LA Times, after all it has been through, can bring it on a big story. Respect,” Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times tweeted.
Thanks, Lydia, for your kind words. But there was never any doubt here.
All of you should be very, very proud. We are.