Editor memo: Hiring and refocus are on at the LA Times

davan-maharaj.jpgWith most but not all of the recent buyouts completed at the Los Angeles Times, editor Davan Maharaj memoed the staff today to thank them for working through "the distractions of the last few weeks." He writes that the top editors have been busy interviewing candidates to fill openings in the newsroom — "many of whom are impressively qualified and eager to work at the L.A. Times." He also lists some of the priorities of the new, smaller LA Times, but doesn't specify which kinds of news the paper won't cover as much anymore. He also never mentions the printed newspaper [actually he does, toward the end- ed.] , but does discuss "making our digital report even more vibrant."

For the Davan watchers out there, yes, he drops the "comrades" greeting he has favored up until now, as in the October memo which first surfaced the idea of revised news priorities. Today he addressed the staff as "colleagues." (Last week's buyout memo from Maharaj was addressed to "friends.")

The hiring actually began today with Sports editor Angel Rodriguez announcing on that the new Dodgers beat writer is Andy McCullough, currently of the Kansas City Star. "One of the best baseball writers in the country," Rodriguez said. McCullough also announced on Twitter. There's no word about the incumbent Dodgers beat reporter, Dylan Hernandez, or the others on the beat. I asked Rodriguez about that and he says there's more news to come: "We are very excited about adding Andy McCullough to our Dodgers coverage team….In terms of other changes that may be coming to our sports department, we’ll have some news to announce soon. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise by saying anything now."

Here's the Maharaj memo.

From: "Maharaj, Davan"
Date: December 1, 2015 at 11:21:38 AM PST
To: yyeditall
Subject: The Road Ahead....


With the voluntary buyouts behind us, it’s time to push ahead with the reorganization of the newsroom. As we take on this challenge, I want to thank all of you for continuing to produce an outstanding news report, despite the distractions of the last few weeks. I am intensely proud to lead such a talented and committed group of journalists.

I want to take this opportunity to underline a few points:

*We are hiring in the newsroom. In fact, we have already begun filling vacancies – not necessarily on a one-for-one basis, but enough to put skilled journalists in essential positions. I and members of the masthead have been very busy interviewing and assessing job candidates from across the country, many of whom are impressively qualified and eager to work at the L.A. Times. Expect to see announcements of new hires beginning this week.

*A key part of reorganizing will be to identify what is most important to us, and do it well. We will prioritize subjects that matter to Californians, notably (but not exclusively) local breaking news, California politics and government, immigration, entertainment, technology, China, Mexico – and, of course, accountability journalism. A clear sense of priorities will help us determine what not to cover. We will not try to do everything.

*In reorganizing, we will ask for your help – in identifying what is working in our newsroom, what needs fixing and how we can be most successful going forward.

*We will streamline our daily meetings and our story budgeting so that they support our mission and sharpen our report, without being unduly time-consuming and burdensome.

*In making our digital report even more vibrant, we will keep faith with the journalism values we all share. Sound reporting, fairness, holding power to account, smart analysis, digging deep to explain an often-bewildering world to readers – these will continue to be the bedrock of our work. These values are compatible with a great newspaper and a robust and relevant digital report.

I look forward to working with all of you to ensure the greatness of the L.A. Times in a new era of journalism. And I invite you to come talk to me directly about your concerns, ideas and ambitions.

– Davan

With the Times in the news, KPCC's "Take Two" on Monday aired a segment with buyout-taker Tony Perry, formerly of the LAT's San Diego bureau, and media industry analyst Ken Doctor.

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