Talking Points

Warren Olney leaving KCRW's radio lineup

warren-olney-2007-marc-goldstein.jpgWarren Olney in 2007. Photo: Marc Goldstein.

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1. Warren Olney's 'To the Point' ending
KCRW president Jennifer Ferro announced on Wednesday that longtime host Warren Olney will step back in November from producing a daily show. "To the Point," the national public affairs show, will become a weekly podcast hosted by Olney. He will also appear weekly on Press Play, the program that airs at noon and 7 p.m. weekdays hosted by Madeleine Brand. "Which Way, LA?," the hugely influential program launched by Olney after the riots in 1992, ended last year — so after 25 years this it for Warren Olney's interviews with newsmakers as a daily fixture of the KCRW radio lineup. "This is a time for Warren to be able to speak without limits and I'm personally excited to hear what Warren thinks in a way we've never heard before," Ferro said.

From the announcement:

Warren Olney said of his tenure at KCRW, “After 25 years in commercial TV news and 25 years in public radio, I’m getting a rare opportunity for another phase in my career. To the Point is becoming a weekly podcast. Without the tyranny of the radio clock, I’ll have time to explore issues that underlie the 24-7 onslaught of daily information. I think listeners will be glad to hear probing conversations about those issues without artificial limits.

“Over the years, on To the Point—and, before that, on Which Way, LA?– I’ve interviewed pundits, politicians, scholars, business leaders, scientists, writers, activists and comedians—representing America’s diversity in multiple ways. After every program ends, I’ve talked to these guests, and they always have something new and interesting to say, something I wish the radio audience had been able to hear. Podcasting will allow my audience to share extended conversations that are informal, direct, engaging and informative. I’m eager to get started the first week of November.”

KCRW President Jennifer Ferro called Warren Olney, "the voice of reason for multiple generations and the pinnacle of credibility for KCRW and Los Angeles.” Ferro added, “He has helped us all through confusing and often frightening world and national events with calmness, clarity and intelligence. The podcast platform is perfect for his style of thoughtful conversation and what I love is that Warren is still going to be our voice of reason in a format that is growing more powerful each day. I can’t wait to hear what’s next because the truth is that he is truly irreplaceable.

Dennis Romero at LA Weekly posted a story on the news and quotes me briefly. On Twitter, former participants on TTP and WWLA are marveling that Olney always calls personally to say thanks after the show.

2. New LA Times publisher a million-dollar man
Ross Levinsohn, the news rookie who was named Monday as the latest publisher experiment at the Los Angeles Times, will be paid more than most big U.S. newspaper publishers. His three-year deal includes about $1 million in salary, more in cash bonuses and Tronc stock, a 10 percent cut on sales of Times content outside the U.S. and a severance agreement that could pay him almost all the money. "By single-newspaper publisher standards, his compensation is generous," writes media industry analyst Ken Doctor. The compensation was disclosed in a filing by Tronc.

The monetary incentive to make sales of LA Times content overseas is interesting. Tronc has had vague ambitions that the content can find partners in other countries, but the Times doesn't really have original high-value content to sell about, say, Hollywood or other subjects that might attract interest in South America and Asia, two areas Tronc has mentioned before. "Given that the Times has cut back on outside California content, it's not clear how the Times would successfully tackle this market," Doctor writes. "One possibility: the revival of the idea to make the Times a 'global entertainment' leader and then, somehow, to monetize that value digitally." Somehow!

Chasing readers in South America or Asia wouldn't do anything for Los Angeles readers or current Times staffers unless it — somehow! — returns wads of cash that Tronc invests in actual news coverage. Today on KCRW, Madeleine Brand interviewed Levinsohn and the interim editor from Chicago, Jim Kirk, about the future of the Times. Poynter and AdWeek's Fishbowl also had stories. At Crain's Chicago Business, Joe Nocera says somebody rich should swoop in to save the LA Times from Tronc — he had hopes for Laurene Powell Jobs, who just bought The Atlantic. Not an original wish for the LAT by any means, but worth repeating.

Meanwhile, a former senior editor at the LAT dissected Tuesday's print paper and concludes there's no way the Times is currently profitable, even with the editorial staff down to about 400.

One third of the ads in a 10-page A section are house ads. The single display ad in the 6-page California section is a house ad. There are NO display ads in the 6-page Sports section and the only two display ads in the 6-page Business section are house ads. Calendar is a pathetic 8 pages with just three display ads, two of which are house ads. For some time now, the single largest advertiser in the LAT has been the LAT. By any reasonable measure, that's a crisis.

Previously at LA Observed:
• Top editors out at Los Angeles Times*
• Reporter Jill Leovy and admin assistant also let go by LA Times
• As the L.A. Times turns ...
• LA Times purge 'capped a month of newsroom turmoil'

3. The big dresses, and bigger business, of the American quinceañera
From Chavie Lieber and photographer Jessica Pons at Racked.

A massive heat wave has hit California, but instead of taking to the beach, a hundred teenage girls stand in a line that wraps around a block in downtown Los Angeles. They’re accompanied by moms, grandparents, and little sisters on this sweltering June afternoon for the Quinceañ Los Angeles Expo...

DJ Chris Canela has worked these parties for a decade and has gotten a front-row seat to the the explosion of the quince market. Businesses like his no longer need to cast a wide net, offering options for weddings, proms, bar and bat mitzvahs, and quinceañeras — there’s more than enough demand for them to cater solely to the quince customer.

“The new generation wants it bigger than ever,” says Canela. “They want a big DJ, they want the lights, and the crazy dance system. It’s a $10 million business in Southern California alone, not to mention you could land on a big baller that will shell out $50,000 for a party.”

4. Media people
Former LA Times Calendar writer Carina Chocano was named a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine... Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski op-eds in the LA Times on a new restaurant in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter "with an unsavory theme: Trailer Park After Dark."... HBO and The Ringer's Bill Simmons discusses his past work (for free) and the state of sports journalism on his own podcast... Ace baseball writer Ken Rosenthal is joining subscription-based startup The Athletic...There's no business like Trump business, write Sherry Bebitch Jeffe and Doug Jeffe for Fox and Hounds Daily...Netflix will release documentaries on Joan Didion and Gay Talese, writes Anne Thompson... Candido Rios Vazquez, a Mexican newspaper reporter, was in Mexico's protection program for journalists — he was killed on Tuesday.

Also: Curbed celebrated its San Fernando Valley Week earlier this month. I was quoted in a couple of the stories.

5. Manny Ramirez is still playing baseball for money
Tonight the Dodgers lost in a truly hard way. Starting pitcher Rich Hill took a perfect game into the 9th inning, only to lose his latest near-perfecto on an infield error. Hill finished the 9th with a no-hitter intact but no victory. That's rare. With the score at 0-0, he came out for the 10th. The Pirates' Josh Harrison smashed a home run to win the game. Tough one.

Meanwhile, a failed prospect named Lars Anderson is writing for FanGraphs about playing in Japan's equivalent of an independent league. That's way below Japan's top leagues where most of the Americans there play. Anderson's most lovable teammate on the Fighting Dogs is the long-lost former Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez! Now 45, he's still just a kid who doesn't want to stop playing a game. Ramirez and his teammates drive to games in what Anderson dubs the Manny Van.

[Manny] doesn’t drink or curse, although he does have one vice — he is seemingly is the only guy in Japan who chews tobacco. Apparently, chew is hard to come by. (Spitting is a non-existent practice here, rendering chewing tobacco obsolete. They replace the chew-then-spit habit by smoking like the Marlboro Man.) We witnessed Manny take his tobacco from from his mouth and wrap it in a bag, stating, ‘I gotta save my tobacco… we in Japan!’...

I arrived at Manny’s penthouse suite and it was, without a doubt, the largest/messiest hotel space I’ve been in. It consisted of two separate bathrooms, an enormous living room, and a master bedroom. It was not messy in a sense of boxes of half-eaten pizza lying on the couch, but rather just free stuff that people send him, piling up. I doubt he’s had to pay for much in his adult life. It seems that companies send him shoes, shirts, etc., in hopes of Manny being a walking advertisement for them. Gary estimated that he had 50 pairs of shoes in his hotel room alone....

The game ended in a victory for the Fighting Dogs, and Manny was selected as the game’s MVP. He usually doesn’t stick around after the game for interviews and autographs but he did this time, being that it was the final game of the first half. While he was doing his interview in front of all the fans and media, he looked around and said, ‘Where’s the Birdman? Gary, get up here!’ He freaking brought Gary up in front of everyone — probably around 1,500 fans and 30 members of the media — and started talking about how much Gary has helped him with his swing and his performance. I don’t know how it keeps getting more surreal, but it keeps getting more surreal. I’m almost expecting to see clocks melting off tables and long-legged elephants lumbering around Kochi Castle.

From the archive: Manny's fun first day of spring training in 2009.

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