LA Observed Notes: Editor moves, NYT steps on JGold turf, jobs and more

spilt-kcal.jpgSplit, spilt, what's the difference really? KCAL oops grabbed and submitted by Don Bentley.

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New Wall Street Journal chief in LA

Ben Fritz was officially named Monday as the West Coast bureau chief for U.S. news, a bigger job in the Wall Street Journal system than just running the Los Angeles office.

"Ben brings the ability to chart dominating coverage and spot high-impact stories to the U.S. news leadership team," said the note announcing the promotion. "He takes on the leadership of a talented group of reporters who cover 14 states and four time zones. Ben will handle coverage of politics at a time of the West’s political revolt against Washington; immigration as the Southern border shapes policy; the extreme economies of a region with booming housing markets and homeless populations; religion, criminal justice and the environment."

Fritz has been reporting on the Hollywood studios, the entertainment business and big media companies such as Disney out of the Journal's Los Angeles bureau since 2013. He previously had covered Hollywood for the Los Angeles Times and Variety. He authored a well-received book on Hollywood this year: "The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies." The promotion means he'll be a lot less focused on the movie business.

He broke the news on Twitter:

New York Times steps onto JGold turf

The New York Times didn't wait long after the passing of Jonathan Gold to announce that the paper will be assigning a staff restaurant reviewer full-time to California. It's a first for the NYT, and Friday's reveal made it clear that Tejal Rao, a two-time James Beard Award winner, will target the breadth of cuisine and food cultures that Gold became known for. She comes with an alt-weekly background, as Gold had.

"Tejal will review restaurants and write about food and food culture in every corner of the nation’s most populous state, at places both fancy and not, wherever people gather to exchange money for food," said the announcement from food editor Sam Sifton. He goes on:

It is a perfect beat for Tejal, whose deep curiosity, beautiful prose and passion for the delicious have informed her work as a food reporter for The Times and as an Eat columnist for The Times Magazine these last two years. (She’ll continue with her column and the occasional feature and profile...) But Tejal knows from criticism. She was, before coming to The Times, the restaurant critic at Bloomberg News and before that at the Village Voice, postings that brought her two James Beard Awards for restaurant criticism.

In Monday morning's California Today email to NYT subscribers, Sifton said it was the right moment for the NYT to expand here. "It is high time we did so, right?" he wrote.

"Not only does The Times have more readers in California than in any other state save New York, but California has more restaurants and a wider variety of them than any other state, bar none. That is an irresistible combination platter for a news organization like The Times. We are devoted, after all, to the business of helping readers understand the world in which they live. Close and critical coverage of restaurants is a great way to do that in California, from south to north, east to west....She’ll tell us where to eat and why."

Sounds a lot like the mission that Jonathan Gold pursued until his death last month from cancer at age 57. With this promotion, and allowing Rao to live in California while on staff, the NYT has removed one possible successor to Gold the LA Times could have gone after. The LAT hasn't said yet how it intends to fill out its food coverage without Gold anchoring the Saturday section, drawing most of the web clicks and putting the butts in seats at food events. But the transition began last week with a couple of moves, and a hint that there would not be any single successor named.

First, food editor Amy Scattergood is stepping down to return to writing about cooking and cookbooks, for the LAT. Jenn Harris will step in as acting food editor, presumably during a search. And business section reporter-editor Andrea Chang will move over to the food staff to do stories — the announcement made no mention of restaurant reviews. Chang wrote Gold's news obituary for the LA Times, and appears to be regarded within the paper as a food fan. "Andrea's dining prowess is well known," said the note from editors Norm Pearlstine and Kimi Yoshino. "She's hit 95 of the 101 restaurants on Jonathan Gold's list and spends much of her free time driving around Los Angeles in search of new places to eat." And Rao has two Beard Awards: advantage NYT.

Eater's Meghan McCarron calls the appointment of Rao an acknowledgement that California is where it's at foodwise. "Rao is one of the food world’s most admired writers," McCarron writes. "Rao’s perspective is needed all across food media, but most definitely in California, a state shaped by its Mexican history, its deep-rooted black communities, and its multilayered immigrant communities — a place where everyday food is constantly reshaping the state’s palate."

Also: Sifton's note in Monday's NYT newsletter also mentions Besha Rodell, the former LA Weekly food critic. She moved back home to Australia last year, and Sifton says her reviews will be part of a ramped-up NYT presence there.

Los Angeles Magazine getting new editor in chief

It's been 18 months now since new ownership took over Los Angeles Magazine and replaced top editor Mary Melton with her executive editor, Matthew Segal. Now Segal has confirmed he is leaving, after 20 years total at the magazine. There is a job posting up on various journalism sites.

Want to the be the editor of Los Angeles? Here's what they are looking for:

The country’s oldest city-regional publication, Los Angeles magazine is looking for an editor-in-chief. This is a big job, and it requires a big skill set.

You need to be a talented story editor with the ability to hone articles big and small, from snappy blurbs to deeply-reported long-form pieces. You need to be able to spot talented writers and be a talented writer yourself. You need to be able to generate story ideas at will, have a sharp eye to help back the copy editor, and be organized to enough to oversee trafficking while also overseeing the digital team as it grows our audience.

Keeping to a tight budget, making deadlines, writing sharp headlines—they’re all basic requirements. Knowing what makes a layout click and coming up with design concepts to help the talented art team are essentials as well. You also need to really know Los Angeles, a city that’s too often reduced to clichés. This is a complex metropolis, and it deserves knowledgeable coverage of its dynamic art and food scenes, its complex demographics, it sometimes-opaque city government, and much, much more. Can you do all of this and inspire your readers and staffers alike? Then we’d like to see your résumé.

LA Times has been hiring

The Times newsroom has fully moved to El Segundo (with a large satellite office above The Last Bookstore on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles) and moved firmly into the Patrick Soon-Shiong and Norm Pearlstine era. The first couple of months have seen a decision to bring back the Column One showcase story that was a prominent feature of the front page for decades — with Steve Padilla the new editor in charge — and some hiring.

The Times got its Washington bureau back from Tronc and almost immediately staffed up. The bureau brought back Del Quentin Wilber to cover justice and national security and hired Jennifer Haberkorn from Politico to cover Congress. "Great to be building again," says bureau chief David Lauter. Earlier, regular freelancers Jenny Jarvie and Nabih Bulos were added to the staff, as bureau chief in Atlanta and foreign correspondent based in Beirut. The Times still has openings posted for a California economy reporter, a sports journalist, editors and other positions.

Added 11:45 a.m.: The LAT announced two Sports hires: Jorge Castillo from the Washington Post to start Sept. 10 and cover the Dodgers, and Andrew Greif from the Oregonian on Sept. 17 to cover the Clippers. "As a native Spanish speaker, Jorge is able to tell stories that few others in baseball can," says the note from Pearlstine and Yoshino. The LAT also has Japanese speaking sports columnist Dylan Hernandez.

Also: The LAT's serialized true-crime series "Dirty John” is becoming a scripted series on Bravo.

Media notes

The Times broke the story that LAPD chief Michel Moore "retired" and received an unusual lump-sum payday of $1.27 million under the generous deals City Hall provides cops who retire on paper and keep working. He continued in his job at full pay — then was promoted to chief, for a big salary boost. All while getting his retirement pension. Also a talker by the LAT: How a dishonest sheriff's deputy's record was kept from hundreds of criminal defendants in whose cases he testified. Plus: An LAT tool on what to do if you are arrested by a dishonest cop....Columnist Michael Hiltzik expalained why the Sinclair-Tribune merger fell apart: In hilarious court filing, Tribune makes right-wing Sinclair look like the merger partner from hell.

The Sacramento Bee revealed a secret DMV office where lawmakers and their staffs avoid having to wait in the agency's ever-longer lines... Education writer Alexander Russo has a suggestion on how to reinvent education coverage at the Los Angeles Times... Journalist Michael Scott Moore has a new book out on his multi-year captivity by Somali pirates. "The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast" is published by Harper Wave.... Vince Beiser is out with "The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization," from Riverhead.... Michelle Maltais has joined USA Today as consumer editor based in the Los Angeles bureau, "leading a newly formed team focused on retail, food, and personal technology."... Ann Brenoff, the columnist on aging for HuffPost in Los Angeles, wrote her last column about her personal decision to retire.

Jobs: KPCC managing editor Megan Garvey tweets "We're looking for a writer with a strong voice & solid news judgment to cover life in LA and beyond for @LAist This is a cool job working with great people." The job description... The Southern California News Group has an opening for "an assignment editor on our news team....This editor will be based in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune newsroom in Monrovia, CA, working at night to coordinate coverage throughout the evening across all of our 11 newsrooms."


ICYMI: KCET has launched a new regional exploration series, SoCal Wanderer. I've only seen the first one but host Rosey Alvero (above) looks to be a fresh and worthy update on the Huell Howser acts amazed trope. She hikes, rides bikes, digs into new foods and seems be interested in going different places than these shows usually have. The director is Zoe Buck.

KCAL 9 anchor Leyna Nguyen left the station after 21 years "to pursue other opportunities," the staff was told in a terse memo from GM Steve Mauldin. Nguyen posted on social media that it's about her family: "I’ve decided to leave my position at KCAL9, and leave the news business altogether (at least for now.) I’ve worked weekends or nights my ENTIRE career–and with a 10 and 12 year old in or going into middle school–it’s time to concentrate on the most important job I have: MOM.” But she's also hinting at something new to be revealed soon.... Brooke Binkowski is out as Snopes managing editor, but the reasons are murky... Shawn Hubler, recently deputy editorial page editor and columnist at the Sacramento Bee, is the latest veteran journalist to join CALmatters.

And finally: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen survived the crash with an 18-wheeler, but his Mini Cooper did not. He columnized on it.


Selected tweets

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