Media

LA Times goes outside and to sports for digital honcho

lewis-dvorkin-lat.jpgThe new regime at the Los Angeles Times is starting in 2018 to put its stamp on the paper. For the new year there were new weekly op-ed columnists, Gustavo Arellano and Virginia Heffernan, brought in by the opinion editors who pre-date the Tronc editor and publisher. And today Tronc's editor in chief in Los Angeles, Lewis D'Vorkin (pictured), announced he has added a new assistant managing editor for digital content, Stephen Miller. Miller comes most recently from the sports web — he left FoxSports.com in Los Angeles in 2015 — but D'Vorkin assures the staff in a morning email that "Steve lives and breathes the news."

Read the memo:

From: D'Vorkin, Lewis
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 9:27 AM
To: xxxxx
Subject: Exciting Staff Announcement


Today I’m excited to welcome Stephen Miller to our newsroom as Assistant Managing Editor, Digital.

Steve has had a distinguished and varied journalism career at some of the nation’s biggest newspaper and broadcast outlets. He’s also been front and center for some of the country’s most notable sports stories:

— He was on the desk at the Baltimore Sun for the Len Bias cocaine story.

— He helped design coverage of The University of Miami football program for the Miami Herald.

— He was at the Detroit News for the Pistons' "Bad Boys" championships and Michigan’s “Fab Five.”

— He was at the Daily News for the Rangers' Stanley Cup championship and was on the desk the night of the OJ chase.

He boldly left the big-time newspaper world for a then little startup in Ft. Lauderdale called Sportsline, which eventually became CBSSports.com. He then spent some time at ESPN.com before moving to Los Angeles to run editorial for FoxSports.com for seven years.

Add it all up and Steve has directed and produced editorial coverage for Super Bowls, World Series, NBA and NHL Playoffs, summer and winter Olympics, Final Fours and major college bowl games.

With all that, his biggest joy is teaching and training editors and producers in the ways of digital content creation, visual storytelling, production and distribution. He will be working directly with everyone on the Hub and he will coordinate digital coverage with many others in our sections and departments as we charge forward to transform the Los Angeles Times into a digital powerhouse.

Steve lives and breathes the news. You will quickly find he is deeply curious about any and all subjects core to the LA Times audience.

Please join me in welcoming a great guy, Steve Miller, to our team.

Lewis

steve-miller-li.jpgWell, I have to read that as Miller's accomplishments that D'Vorkin finds mention-worthy are in web sports, and that he also was at work on the day O.J. Simpson took off in the Bronco. Per his LinkedIn page, Miller (pictured) left Fox in July 2015 and has been unemployed since at least December 2016, except for the open-for-business entry every out of work journalist seems to put at the top. "I seek to apply my skills, experience and network to new challenges in media," Miller says in his."Editing, management and leadership, career coaching, resume evaluation. Freelance editing for high-profile clients."

There's chatter out in the LAT diaspora about some more outside AME's being imported soon — the names I've heard mentioned are a mix of East Coast newspaper veterans and someone working in corporate PR in a Los Angeles tech company. If they are coming, they will step into a newsroom still buzzing from last week's union vote and newly aggrieved over revived talk of the Times moving out of its longtime downtown headquarters.

The push to choose the NewsGuild as the first official bargaining unit in the LA Times newsroom received a boost last week when columnist Steve Lopez, quite likely the highest-paid writer at the paper, went public as a supporter. The guild also got the public support of Doug Smith, a reporter who has been at the Times for 47 years, and who wrote that he signed on out of concern for the future of the Times under Tronc.

It would be futile to try to pinpoint the moment in which I lost confidence in the company. Our recent change of newsroom leadership provided our managers a brief opportunity to restore some trust. They chose not to try.


For the first time in my nearly five decades at The Times, I, along with my colleagues, have been publicly scolded by my publisher and by my editor.... I have concluded that organizing is the only way to deal with our ownership.

Votes will be counted late next week, after the mail-in deadline passes, to determine if the guild will represent newsroom staffers. Even before the results are known, guild organizers sent publisher Ross Levinsohn a memo critical of what the newsroom activists say is Tronc "actively looking at the Westside as a possible future location for our newsroom, according to several well-connected sources."

Westside communities — such as Santa Monica and Playa del Rey — are wonderful places to live and important to our news coverage. But relocating to that area would make our jobs more challenging and nearly double the commute times of the average staffer.


Downtown is the most central location to many of the communities and institutions that are vital to our daily reporting, including city, county, state and several federal government offices, big financial houses and law firms, and centers of culture and sport, such as the Music Center, a cluster of major museums, the Staples Center and Dodger Stadium.

In addition, it is our impression that moving to a Westside address would mean leasing costs higher than those available downtown, premiums The Times cannot afford given our more pressing needs.

We did a detailed analysis of commute times for newsroom staffers, based on their home addresses and Google traffic data. It determined that nearly 90% of the staff would spend more time driving to and from work if The Times moved to, for example, Santa Monica....And for staffers who use mass transit, daily round-trip commutes would shoot up from 2 hours and 35 minutes to more than four hours.

It's difficult for us to imagine why you would consider a move to the Westside.

The Times is likely to move somewhere. Its longtime home at First and Spring streets across from City Hall has been sold out from under the newspaper and is targeted for renovation and the development of new office and residential towers. Every time the Times staff has faced the prospect of a move, the idea of leaving downtown has been anathema. It's where many of the institutions the paper covers are located, of course, and it's central to where many staffers choose to live — although many also come in from distant suburbs and the county's coastal zones. Now that downtown is a desirable center of the city, with restaurant and cultural options (and coffee) that didn't use to be there, there's more reluctance to leave. But most of the newsrooms and the media, entertainment and tech offices in the LA area (and obviously most of the population the Times covers) are not located downtown, but scattered all over from Glendale and Pasadena to the Wilshire corridor and the beach. It will be interesting to see which way Tronc goes on this.

aon-center-from-wgc-kr.jpgThe guild memo also specifically objects to an architectural firm's proposal for building out Times offices in the Aon skyscraper downtown — that's the older office tower, best known as the location of the 1988 First Interstate Bank fire, where the Times was rumored a few months ago to be moving. The objecting journalists don't know if the proposal is current or if it even reflects the plans of this Times management or Tronc, but they asked for a meeting with Levinsohn to air their concerns.

"It [the proposal] seemed to devote a lopsided amount of space and expense to lavish, penthouse accommodations for executives – including a game room and tricked-out helipad," the note to Levinsohn says in part. "Second, the proposal placed the journalists who produce The Times in cramped quarters poorly designed for the work we do. We appeared to have been sardined at communal work tables, rather than given individual spaces. Temporary work tables do not lend themselves to the craft and art of conducting interviews (often on sensitive topics), poring over stacks of documents, writing stories and jamming on deadline."

Levinsohn's response, posted on the guild website, feels dismissive.

Thanks for taking the time and effort to research and write the note regarding your concerns about our business going forward. When the time is right for the company to communicate our go-forward strategy, including our current lease situation, I will do my best to do so in the right setting. Until that time, it’s important we all keep focused on delivering the best possible experiences for our millions of consumers who count on the Los Angeles Times day in and day out. Thanks for reaching out.


Ross

Ouch. The architectural proposal is pretty hideous, segregating the CEO's office with a light, sunny technical suite on the 56th floor near a rooftop heliport, and keeping the journalists in tight quarters on floors 11-13. Again, though, it's unknown if this is even a current plan. The Times said last July that it had not signed any deal to move to the Aon tower or anywhere else.

Meanwhile, D'Vorkin separately memoed the newsroom staff on Monday with his style of giving kudos. It's interesting more for his view of what the Los Angeles Times is to its readers. I've heard mixed reactions, both to the sentiments and the grammar.

From: D'Vorkin, Lewis
Sent: Monday, January 08, 2018 7:17 AM
To: xxxxxx
Subject: Re: A great start to 2018...


To all,

I’m very excited to begin the new year — and we kicked it off in fantastic fashion with strong journalism across the newsroom.

More than ever, our mission is to serve our audience as only we can. The Los Angeles Times plays a critical role for a vast geographical area. I’ve described it as a community of readers that extends from the Pacific Northwest to Latin America and the Pacific Rim. I’ve been visiting with various city officials and residents over the last few months and I’ve been struck by their interpretation of LA's sprawling influence. Los Angeles, as one said, is the northern capital of Latin America and the western capital of Asia. That very astute observation offers a powerful way for us to focus our news reporting and the significant resources we can marshal to do what we love to do.

In fact, we began the year with just such coverage. Please take a look at the four Page One’s below, each of which supplied great content for our website and social followers. I’ve also attached some Arc modules published on Sunday night during the Golden Globes that speaks to our great reporting on topics of intense interest to our readers.

We have the opportunity to do what the LA Times uniquely can do and The New York Times and Washington Post can’t do. And that’s to cover the news in our part of the world with a singular focus. The attached Page Ones and Home Page elements did exactly that.

A few call-outs:

*The Toback story on Sunday: Kudos to Glenn Whipp for applying a first person account to fantastic weeks of reporting.
*The Sunday Rams Home-Groan Effort headline: Kudos to Dave Bowman.
*The Home Page Refer Madness headline: Kudos to Hailey Branson-Potts and Shelby Grad.
*An amazing Instagram Story from the Golden Globes red carpet: Kudos to Tre’vell Anderson and Amy Kaufman.

And, thanks to Mary McNamara, Dan Strauss and the entire team that worked to produce compelling content for last night’s Golden Globes. Many people spent weeks to prepare for the Globes, then worked long hours and executed with precision for our website, varying social platforms and, of course, this morning’s newspaper. It’s exactly the type of multiplatform effort that will drive all our thinking and execution in the year ahead.

We’re going to chart an innovative path forward in 2018 and I’m confident we will do so with all the professionalism that has marked 136 years of this storied news organization.

Thanks for believing,

Lewis

LA Times archive at LA Observed


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