Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff

gustavo-arellano.jpgThe Los Angeles Times hiring binge continues. Today's memo announces the addition of author, columnist and former OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano as a feature writer and the return of two more former LAT staffers. There's a new promotion to foreign editor. Late last week, editor Norman Pearlstine divulged the new food and restaurant team that will be assigned to succeed the late Jonathan Gold — as well as an abrupt high-level departure from the Times masthead.

That's a lot of new movement at the LAT since the last time I rounded it all up. Here below are the relevant internal memos, leading with the hiring of Arellano and returning former Times veteran Maria LaGanga.

From: "Pearlstine, Norman"
Date: November 19, 2018 at 10:43:16 AM PST
To: yyeditall
Subject: Metro Staff

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the following additions to the Metro staff, thanks to the fine recruiting efforts of Assistant Managing Editor Shelby Grad and his editors.

Maria LaGanga has returned to Metro as a general assignment reporter. Over the years, Maria was one of The Times most respected bylines, serving as our longtime San Francisco bureau chief and later as a national correspondent. In her new role, Maria will work out of the El Segundo office, helping us expand our California coverage, both by helping anchor breaking news and traveling the state chronicling the people, issues and ideas of our time. Maria will help with rewrite, deploy on the fires, floods and other big stories we've come to set our watches to, as well as write for Column One. Maria comes to us after stints at the Guardian U.S. and the Idaho Statesman-Review.

Gustavo Arellano is joining The Times as a features writer. Gustavo has already established himself as one of Southern California's most astute, creative and prolific chroniclers of our cultural fabric. He will build on that work in his new role, with a special emphasis on the diversity of our region. Gustavo plans to cover this beat at street level, exploring communities and subcultures that often get overlooked, and profiling the people and places that make modern Los Angeles tick and how they manifest themselves in politics, demographic change, art, food and economics. Gustavo's work will appear in the California section as well as Page 1 and Column One. He will also contribute to the food section, Calendar and other departments.

Gustavo was most recently a columnist on The Times' Op/Ed page. Prior to that, he spent about a decade as editor and publisher of the OC Weekly, where he oversaw an impressive wave of investigative and cultural reporting. He has authored three books: The best-selling “Ask a Mexican” (2007), “Orange County: A personal history.” (2008), “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America” (2012).

Melody Gutierrez is joining Metro as a reporter in the Sacramento bureau. Melody is one of the most respected members of the Sacramento press corps, skilled at both breaking legislative news and investigative journalism. She is currently the Sacramento bureau chief of the San Francisco Chronicle, where she's juggled coverage of Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers with some public accountability projects and data journalism. Before the Chronicle, she spent nearly a decade covering the state legislature for the Sacramento Bee. Before that, she was a sports reporter for the Bee, writing about the Kings and, yes, the Sacramento River Cats.

Erika D. Smith is joining Metro as an assistant editor. She comes from the Sacramento Bee, where she served as the paper's associate editor and an Op/Ed columnist. Her columns tackle some of the essential issues facing California today with insight and originality: Police use-of-force, gentrification, the housing crisis, homelessness and diversity. Before coming to the Bee, Erika was a Metro columnist for the Indianapolis Star, where she wrote unflinchingly about the challenges facing the city, and the struggles and triumphs of its urban areas. She was also both a reporter and copy editor at the Akron Beacon-Journal.

Reed Johnson is rejoining The Times as an assistant editor for Metro. Reed comes from Zocalo Public Square, where he served as managing editor. Before that, he served as a Brazil correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and a Mexico-based reporter for The Times. He spent many years as an arts and features writer in the Calendar section. Reed is a student of Southern California, with a keen interest in the demographic, political, cultural and economic issues that are at the core of our coverage. His years of reporting in Latin America will help us sharpen our immigration coverage. Before The Times, Reed worked at the Detroit News and Los Angeles Daily News.

Laura Newberry is joining Metro as a breaking news and general assignment reporter. Expect to see a lot more of Laura's already prolific byline. In her new job, she will be on the frontline of how we attack the California report, getting breaking news online quickly and then developing those story lines over hours and days. She will work with the LA Now desk, with a focus on getting to the scene of news and trying to report out the most interesting, compelling and important stories going on around California. During her summer internship, Laura proved herself a tireless reporter with an eye for news and an ability to elevate stories to the front page. Before coming to The Times, she worked at the Tampa Bay Times, Reading Eagle and

Please join us in welcoming Maria, Gustavo, Melody, Erika, Reed and Laura!

Norm and Scott

Scott is managing editor Scott Kraft. LaGanga already made a big splash over the weekend with this dispatch from a nursing home in the Camp fire zone in Paradise.

The new foreign editor is Mitchell Landsberg. The Times hasn't had a dedicated FG editor in recent years and hadn't really needed one until this summer's addition of a number of overseas correspondents and bureaus.

From: "Pearlstine, Norman"
Date: Monday, November 19, 2018 at 11:59 AM
To: yyeditall
Subject: Mitchell Landsberg

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the promotion of Mitchell Landsberg, acting Foreign and National Editor, to the position of Foreign Editor of the Los Angeles Times.

In his new role, Mitchell will oversee our global correspondents, guiding the work of the growing international staff as he has done so skillfully since taking on his interim duties in March. We plan to eventually divide Foreign and National into separate departments as we expand our coverage of the nation and the world, focusing especially on the issues of vital interest to California. But, as we search for a new National Editor, Mitchell will continue to oversee National as well as the Foreign/National editing desk in Los Angeles.

Mitchell brings a wealth of experience to his new role. He has been an editor on the Foreign/National Desk since 2012, including the last three years as deputy department head. Before joining the desk, he was a staff writer for a dozen years, during which he covered religion, education and national politics. His work also included coverage of the Haiti earthquake, the Florida recount and the California gubernatorial recall, and he has long been a go-to writer for rewrite on major news.

Mitchell was also one of four reporters who uncovered deadly abuses at the inner-city hospital King/Drew Medical Center – work that won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2005. And he was the lead writer on a 70-plus-member team that won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for coverage of California wildfires.

Before joining the Times, Mitchell spent 19 years at the Associated Press, where he was a national writer based in New York and, later, a foreign correspondent in the AP’s Moscow bureau. He got his start with AP in the Reno bureau and previously worked at the Ukiah Daily Journal and the Beverly Hills Independent. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA. He and his wife, Mary McVean, a former Times staffer who now runs an urban farming collective, have two grown children.

Please join us in congratulating Mitchell on his well-deserved promotion.

Norm and Scott

The new food writing team was announced in a press release from the Times offices in El Segundo. Risky move, perhaps, to invest the future of a key cultural beat in the hands of journalists who are new to Los Angeles. Bears watching.

The Los Angeles Times has named Bill Addison, Eater’s national critic, and Patricia Escárcega, formerly the food critic for the Phoenix New Times, the new restaurant critics who will cover the vast and diverse dining scene in Southern California and beyond. Lucas Peterson, former host of Eater’s “Dining on a Dime” and Frugal Traveler columnist for the New York Times, will report and host a new video series and contribute to the Food and Travel sections. The three new hires, who all start in December, join recently-named Contributing Editor Peter Meehan, Acting Food Editor Jenn Harris, Test Kitchen Director Noelle Carter, and Staff Writers Andrea Chang and Amy Scattergood.

“From our vantage point in Los Angeles – one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the world – we are uniquely able to tell the story of California food, cooking, and dining,” said Times Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine. “Today’s announcements demonstrate our continuing commitment to expand our coverage and our ability to attract some of the world’s best food writers and critics.”

“We are thrilled to bring Bill Addison’s authoritative voice and enthusiasm for L.A.’s enviable dining scene to our readers,” said Senior Deputy Managing Editor Kimi Yoshino, who is overseeing the coverage. “Patricia Escárcega is a talented food critic who grew up in Southern California and we can’t wait to see her take on the traditions and innovations that define Los Angeles.”

Addison has been the national critic at Eater since 2014 and compiled many of the food site’s popular best-of restaurant lists. His most recent lineup of America’s 38 Essential Restaurants included four in L.A.: Mariscos Jalisco, Park’s BBQ, Here’s Looking at You and n/naka. He previously reviewed restaurants for Atlanta magazine, the Dallas Morning News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I can think of no other city I’d rather call home than Los Angeles, because Los Angeles is the capital of American food in the 21st century,” Addison said. “It’s where so much is happening that steers the conversation of what we think about with food today, and how it reflects who we are and how we relate to one another through dining.”

Escárcega is a food writer at the Arizona Republic and was the restaurant reviewer at the Phoenix New Times, an alt weekly, for three years. The job will be a homecoming of sorts for Escárcega, who was born and raised in Riverside. Escárcega and Addison will bring weekly restaurant criticism back to The Times, which has been missing since the death of critic Jonathan Gold.

“Jonathan Gold was a longtime writing hero of mine, and what I enjoyed was how deeply omnivorous and egalitarian he was,” said Escárcega. “He would eat anything and anywhere, and I really admired the way he acknowledged that no one food is better than another. That’s pretty much my ethos.”

“Food and dining is a huge part of how people express and experience culture,” continued Yoshino. “Lucas Peterson will help us expand how we cover this vital subject, and make our coverage and the many cuisines represented in Los Angeles more accessible.”

In addition to hosting “Dining on a Dime” and writing the Frugal Traveler column, Peterson is a “Jeopardy” champion and former actor. He has traveled extensively, seeking out affordable and exotic meals, and speaks multiple languages, including Mandarin, Spanish and German.

“I am very excited to be joining the food team at the L.A. Times in what is a renaissance of sorts for this beloved institution,” said Peterson. “I am truly looking forward to helping improve the already outstanding coverage of L.A.’s incredible food scene and bring some new dimensions to our coverage including different video and multimedia projects.”

The hiring of Addison, Escárcega and Peterson represents a significant expansion of the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of food, dining and cooking. The Times is currently developing additional platforms to produce and share coverage and building a new state-of-the-art test kitchen. In addition, Times food coverage extends to its signature food festivals – The Taste and Food Bowl – as well as several live events, video projects and radio appearances throughout the year. Over the next several months, The Times plans to continue expansion of its food coverage and staff across multiple platforms and to regions across California and the West.

There's also been an abrupt exit from the Times masthead: Kris Viesselman, just hired in June with the newly created title of chief transformation editor and creative director, reporting to Pearlstine. She stopped tweeting on Nov. 11 and has left the building. Chatter inside the newsroom speculates it's related to troubles at the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she had been managing editor.

Pearlstine subtly acknowledged her departure in a memo last week announcing a reorganization of the paper's top editors, along with some promotions.

From: Pearlstine, Norman
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2018 10:10 AM
To: yyeditall
Subject: Realignment of Editorial Responsibilities

Dear Colleagues,

We are realigning responsibilities among editors reporting to me, effective immediately.

MANAGING EDITOR SCOTT KRAFT: Metro, California, National, International, Washington, Michael Whitley’s Design group, Top Stories/Page One, Column One, Enterprise and Investigations report to Scott, as do all other editorial functions in my absence.

SENIOR DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR KIMI YOSHINO: Arts and Entertainment, Business, Tech, Features and Sports report to Kimi.

DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR SEWELL CHAN: News Desk (aka Digital Hub), Multiplatform Editing Desks, Data Desk, Audience Engagement, Newsletters and Tribune News Service/Los Angeles report to Sewell.

I'm also pleased to announce that LOREE MATSUI, who continues to be responsible for the Multiplatform Editing Desks, has been promoted to ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, reporting to Sewell. Loree has distinguished herself as an editor and manager during more than 26 years at The Times.

DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR COLIN CRAWFORD: Photography, Events, Library, Hoy, Los Angeles Times en Español, Times Community News, Labor Relations, News Operations, Technology and Development, including Metpro, report to Colin.

ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR LEN DEGROOT: Development of Content Management Systems (CMS), Data Visualization and Graphics, Podcasts, Digital Design and Digital R&D report to Len.

EDITORIAL PAGES EDITOR NICK GOLDBERG: Editorial and Opinion pages report to Nick.

Kris Viesselman is no longer with The Times. We thank Kris for her service and wish her well in her future endeavors.

In addition to Scott, Kimi, Sewell, Colin, Len and Nick, Readers’ Representative Judy Cramer and John McCutcheon, our Deputy Editor for Video, report to me.

The new structure is meant to foster collaboration and faster decision making. As anyone working at the Los Angeles Times knows, the creation of content from many sources for distribution across multiple platforms requires a reporting structure with many straight and dotted lines. Should you should have questions about how these changes may affect you, workflow in the newsroom, or projects currently in development, I encourage you to contact Scott or me, so we may address them.


In addition, books editor Carolyn Kellogg announced on social media that as he will be leaving the Times in December. She says she has plans that involve writing, but can't announce them yet. Earlier, Pearlstine announced a new Metro columnist and podcast.

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that Frank Shyong is shifting to a new role in Metro, writing a column as well as co-hosting a new Times podcast on Asian Americans with Jen Yamato.

Frank’s column will debut in November and the podcast in early 2019. His column aims to chronicle the ways immigration and demographic change are rapidly reshaping Southern California. It will build off his groundbreaking coverage over the last six years of the San Gabriel Valley and the Asian American community. We’ll be sharing more details on the podcast in coming weeks.

Frank has written about how Cambodians became the kings of a beloved South L.A. fried chicken chain, a dying mother who shot her schizophrenic son, the only Chinese-speaking cop in Monterey Park, voter corruption in the City of Industry, and how Chinese investors used a little-known visa to transform the county’s economic development.

As with his past first-person accounts about living with his mom (he no longer does) and Asian Americans during the Olympics, Frank plans to tell stories through the lens of food, family, culture, politics and identity as well as his personal explorations of the city.

We are excited to add Frank’s distinct and unique voice to our lineup of distinguished columnists.

Norm, Scott and Shelby

Update: And two more today.

From: "Pearlstine, Norman"
Date: Monday, November 19, 2018 at 1:25 PM
To: yyeditall
Subject: Multiplatform Editing Department

Dear Colleagues,

We are delighted to announce two additions to our multiplatform editing department, on the recommendation of Loree Matsui.

Amy Hubbard is returning to The Times today and rejoining the AM copy desk. She has been at NerdWallet for the last three years. During her time at the personal finance website, she worked as a copy editor, assistant assigning editor for Small Business and as assigning editor for the Banking team.

Amy has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Her journalism career includes working as a copy editor at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Hollywood Reporter. She was also a copy editor and assistant Travel editor at the Los Angeles Daily News before joining the Los Angeles Times.

While at The Times, Amy worked as a copy editor and copy chief. Before detouring to personal finance, she spent the last several years here as SEO chief/editorial, and then senior editor/digital/Metro. Amy says that she’s always been a copy editor at heart, and is looking forward to returning to the desk.

Matt Tustison will be joining the news copy desk on December 3rd. Matt joins us from the Washington Post, where he worked on the sports and news copy desks as a copy editor and slot. Before that, he worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Baltimore Sun and the Palm Beach (FL) Post. He was also a freelance sportswriter for the Associated Press in Minneapolis, and has written more than 10 sports history books for young audiences.

He is a native of St. Paul, MN, and graduated from his hometown University of St. Thomas with a degree in print journalism. His hobbies include collecting vinyl records and CDs, and he’s looking forward to exploring the Los Angeles record store scene. He also maintains sizable collections of books as well as TV shows on DVD. This will be Matt’s first time living on the West Coast. He is eager to learn about L.A. and is sure that he will appreciate the Southern California weather.

Please join me in welcoming Amy and Matt.


That's all for now. More later.

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