LA Observed Notes: Joe Frank RIP, Tara Finestone upped at CBS LA, more newspaper turmoil

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Top of the news

The cleanup in Montecito from the deadly storm and debris flow has become about recovering bodies. Cadaver dogs are helping search the homes of the missing and the mud that buried U.S. 101 around the Olive Mill Road exit. As of Monday night, authorities say they have recovered and identified 20 remains and are still looking for at least three missing presumed victims. Caltrans said Monday that U.S. 101 will remain closed at Montecito for at least another week. Updates: Noozhawk, Santa Barbara Independent, KEYT Channel 3, LA Times, KCRW, Ventura County Star

Parents arrested after 13 children found shackled and malnourished in Perris home - LA Times
Mexican journalist Carlos Dominguez stabbed 21 times in front of his family - LA Times

Joe Frank, RIP

joe-frank-sq.jpgJoe Frank, a giant voice for KCRW who produced more than 230 shows for the NPR station, died on Monday at the age of 79. Through his long-running one-hour program "Joe Frank: Work In Progress," and later "In The Dark," "Somewhere out There" and "The Other Side," Joe Frank helped build KCRW into a powerhouse as he became a story telling legend of public radio. Ira Glass and David Sedaris are among the radio broadcasters who call Frank an inspiration to their work.

Harry Shearer, another KCRW pioneer, took to Twitter Monday night with the news.

Frank left and returned to KCRW more than once apparently, but in recent years he has been producing segments for UnFictional. Several years ago the station, and other NPR and Pacifica outlets, began to air a selection of Frank's work as Return Engagement.

Frank was born Joseph Langermann in Strasbourg, France in 1938. His radio career began at Pacifica's WBAI in New York City in 1976, with a show, “In the Dark,” that experimented with live freeform monologues and actor improvisations. In 1978, he was hired to co-anchor "Weekend All Things Considered" on National Public Radio, but he didn't care for the news gig and returned to producing shows for NPR Playhouse. He was brought to KCRW in 1986 by then-general manager Ruth Seymour.

Here's Frank with Terry Gross on Fresh Air in 2003. She opened the segment by saying "you're in for a treat!"

See more media obits below. Plus a personal note about KCRW.

Tara Finestone to run CBS LA news duopoly

Tara_Finestone.JPGCBS 2 and KCAL 9 got a new vice president and news director last week. Tara Finestone, the assistant news director since coming over from KTLA in 2016, was promoted to the top job. The two CBS stations in Los Angeles together produce 65 hours of local newscasts each week, putting Finestone in charge of one of the largest local broadcast and digital news departments in the country.

“Since joining us two years ago, Tara has done a terrific job of earning the respect of her colleagues and being a key contributor to a cohesive team that consistently delivers high-quality local news coverage,” said Steve Mauldin, president and general manager of both stations. “I was very impressed with her leadership of our newsroom during last month’s Southern California wildfires and how she worked with our community partners, including the American Red Cross, to help raise money for people who suffered losses.”

Before KTLA, Finestone was a supervising producer at Current TV and served in several positions at KNBC and NBC News in Burbank.

Also at the duopoly: CBS LA announced the birth of a daughter to weathercaster Jackie Johnson.

LA Times on cusp of yet another big disruption

Thumbnail image for latimes-sign-sideview.jpg Whether the union vote wins or loses, Ken Doctor of Newsonomics confirms our early indication last week that three new top editors are coming to the Los Angeles Times from outside. Doctor got the names and says they are part of "editor-in-chief Lewis D’Vorkin...moving forward with a sweeping reorganization of the Times newsroom." The official announcement is apparently waiting until after the newsroom union votes are counted on Friday.

The new editors, Doctor writes, would be Louise Story, a reporter and former editor at the New York Times; Sylvester Monroe, a former Time Magazine correspondent in Los Angeles who is currently assistant foreign editor of the Washington Post; and Bruce Upbin, a longtime colleague of D'Vorkin's at Forbes who left that magazine's staff in 2016 to be VP/strategic communications in Los Angeles for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. Frankly, it's unclear what any of these imports would bring that isn't already in the Times newsroom. None are top-level leaders at their current employers or known to have any special expertise or experience needed at the LAT — and could be seen as possibly exacerbating one of the Times' big threat over the next some years, which is staying relevant on news important to readers in Los Angeles as Tronc chases page views around the world with a focus on Hollywood, culture and other globally desirable content.

The arrival of three new editors who don't know anybody would be disruptive, and maybe that's the point for D'Vorkin and publisher Ross Levinsohn. Last week they went off the board to bring in Stephen Miller, a former head of, to be the top-ranked digital editor at the Times. For people at the Times, it has to feel like, while the New York Times, Washington Post and other national media are building up their strength and digital chops in this hyper-news era, the LAT is going to become an experimental lab for outsiders who convinced someone they know some better digital way. Not only is their theory of what works at a big-city newspaper untested, so is their commitment to news and to what Los Angeles readers want out of a newspaper, digital or print.

For what it's worth, the new hires were also bungled internally — the names popped up in the HR computer system prematurely and got out, forcing D'Vorkin to finally say he couldn't talk about it until the union votes are counted. Monroe, at least, has been sighted in the newsroom. The others have possibly been there. Tying the news about three new managing editor-level hires to the union vote results only adds to the discomfort among staffers.

From Doctor:

The combined moves would amount to a major change in direction for the Times, a still-influential regional, and occasionally national, news player. As with any change of this sort, the next question will be how many of the Times’ other top managers, and their middle-manager reports, will stay in place as the new management team emerges. At this writing, it’s not clear what follow-on reorganization — among current assistant managing editors or deputy managing editors (of whom there are now eight in total), for instance — will result. In addition, it’s unclear what role interim executive editor Jim Kirk may play when the dust settles. The impact won’t only be felt in the top ranks. The Times remains susceptible to seeing its best journalists poached. At least eight have gone to either The New York Times or The Washington Post within the past couple of years.

Add energy reporter Ivan Penn, who announced on Thursday that he was jumping ship — for the New York Times. He will cover the alternative energy beat from Southern California.

Story, at least, comes with some props, per Doctor. “She’s a star, and the Times will be sorry to lose her,” a top New York Times news executive told Doctor. “She has been an accomplished investigative reporter, had wider digital ambitions, and ran our Facebook Live effort for about a year. And she’s got a great rep.” But also this:

Story also gained prominence as one of the authors of the Times’ influential Innovation Report. The 11-year Times veteran work has centered on project leadership and investigative reporting.

The looming question is a big one: Story has relatively little management experience, leading at most a team of about a dozen with Facebook Live. Her current title is staff reporter. It’s a fairly unprecedented jump to become a managing editor of the third-largest newspaper newsroom in the country, especially one in deep turmoil.

Sums up another New York Times news executive: “She was offered a big leap by Tronc. It’s a huge bet.”

Monroe, who reported from Los Angeles during the O.J. Simpson trials, would be the lone African-American on the Times masthead if he comes in as an assistant managing editor, as Doctor believes. Actually, he would be the only non-white person on the masthead.

Meanwhile, with many in the newsroom still upset at possible plans to move the Times' home office from the Civic Center, Levinsohn emailed the newsroom saying he would have nothing to say about it until the union vote concludes.

Daily News, Register have it much worse

The newsrooms of the Digital First Media newspapers were gathered on Friday afternoon and told there was another round of staff cuts coming imminently. This round of cuts would affect newsrooms at the 11 Southern California News Group papers, which include the Daily News, Daily Breeze, Pasadena Star-News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune in Los Angeles County, the Register in Orange County and the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The LA Times, which heard a recording of the staff meeting at the Register, reports there are 315 newsroom employees at the papers and that more than 65 are expected to be lost in the newest round of cuts. Reductions last year took 65 staffers out of the newsrooms, which already combine many functions into central offices.

The first layoffs will hit the sports, features and photo sections, in late January, the staffs were told. News department layoffs will hit in February, then the design staffs get hit in March. “I don’t expect we’ll have a single area that will go unscathed,” Register senior editor Todd Harmonson told the staff there.

“The demand for reliable local news has never been stronger," SoCal News Group executive editor Frank Pine told the Times in a statement. "Unfortunately, continued financial pressures require us to make reductions in our newsrooms, and we will have some very talented people leaving us in the weeks to come.”

Similar news was given to the Digital First newspapers in the Bay Area up north. Buyouts are expected to be offered to some veteran staff members. The pressure for all these layoffs is coming from the home office. Digital First Mediais controlled by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund with no connections to the communities its newspapers serve and, apparently, an itch to sell after slimming down. Stay tuned for more details.

Media notes

Former ABC 7 politics reporter Elex Michaelson tweets that he's joining Fox 11 in Los Angeles as co-anchor of the 4:30 AM news with Araksya Karapetya. He starts Jan. 22. "I started my career as an intern at Fox 11 and it's a dream come true to return in this role!," he says... The New York Times rocked the fashion magazine world with a story in which male models allege abuse over many years by elite-level photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber... Moira Donegan writes about her life after creating the spreadsheet that let women anonymously accuse men working in media of sexual offenses... Here's a little bit of irony: NYT sexual harassment reporter Jodi Kantor is going to Sundance but Harvey Weinstein (presumably) isn't... James Risen, formerly of the NYT and the LAT, wrote first-person about his experiences, good and bad, trying to cover national security and stay out of jail during the Obama years... The New York Times hired Jada Yuan from New York Magazine to be its full-time travel writer on the 52 Places to Go beat.

Local notes: LA-based author and journalist Sam Quinones testified in Congress about the Middle America opioid crisis he has documented so well... KPFK, Pacifica's ever-struggling Los Angeles FM station, recently needed an emergency loan to cheat death once again... Mimi Chen, the alum of 100.3 The Sound, has landed her "Peace, Love and Sunday Mornings" show on 88.5 FM on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3 p.m... The LA Times editorial board chastised the county Board of Supervisors for having an outdated website... The first 2018 print edition of the LA Weekly was basically all cannabis, content and ads... Sacramento Bee executive editor Joyce Terhaar announced Friday that she is leaving after seven years. The new editor, Lauren Gustus, comes from Fort Worth and will run all the Bees. She is a Daily News alumnus... CBS News photographer Hunter Bloch covered the Thomas Fire then hung up his camera, retiring after 40 years with the network in Los Angeles... “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” a new album from the longtime Los Angeles radio figure, hit stores Jan. 12... Abby Sewell writes first-person about how it has gone since she quit the Los Angeles Times a year ago to freelance in Lebanon.

Also: Baseball stats writing pioneer Dave Cameron, the managing editor of FanGraphs, was hired in an analytics role by the San Diego Padres. He says goodbye.

Some media deaths

HillyRose.jpgOne drawback of posting irregularly is that I am often late on the deaths of important media figures. The latest I feel that way about is Keith Jackson, the Los Angeles-based voice of televised college football for years and years. He died Jan. 12 at age 89 and there's been copious national coverage, but here's a good personal tribute from Chuck Culpepper at the Washington Post.... More locally, longtime Los Angeles talk radio voice Hilly Rose (pictured) died at age 91. Rose was heard over KABC, KFI and KMPC (and nationally filling in for Larry King and on "Coast to Coast") after moving here from the Bay Area in the 1970s. He was the father of the late TV reporter Judd Rose and of LA journalist Adam Rose, now at CBS Interactive. SF Chronicle, Daily News... Also, there's word in the NBC alumni world that Jim Brown, the retired entertainment reporter for NBC and KNBC 4. died recently at age 85... Bart Everett, a retired editor at the LA Times, died in his sleep on Jan. 9.

Though not thought of as media, you could argue that former U.S. Senator John V. Tunney counts because he's widely believed to be the model for Robert Redford's character in the 1972 film "The Candidate." Tunney, who served one term in the Senate from 1970-76, also was a political commentator for KABC Channel 7 for a time. He died last week at age 83.

LA Observed segment on KCRW moving to Tuesdays

My weekly LA Observed segment on KCRW has been on Mondays for a few years, but starting today it will now air on Tuesdays. Same time — 4:44 p.m. — and same format. The segment will continue to be a four-minute conversation about the news each week between me and "All Things Considered" anchor Steve Chiotakis.

Tune in, as they say, at 89.9 on the FM dial, or anytime at the KCRW website. Or subscribe in the KCRW podcast area in the iTunes store.

Last week we talked about the trash collection crisis that City Hall created by switching every apartment building and other commercial site over to a monopoly, in the name of recycling. It's one of the biggest bungles out of City Hall in a long while.

Selected tweets



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