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News on the relaunch of L.A. Now, mapping and more

February 20, 2009 |  3:03 pm

Here's a memo to Times staff from Meredith Artley, executive editor of LATimes.com:

L.A. Now, our local breaking news blog, relaunched earlier this week with a new design and a new homepage widget that scrolls through the top 5 posts. You’ll see a bolder look and feel, more prominent video placement featuring great stuff from KTLA, aggregated headline feeds from other sites, daily traffic and weather posts from KTLA, new “morning scoop” posts and continuous coverage from our fabulous metro staff. This blog drew 1.6 million page views last month – these improvements should make it even more of a must read: http://www.latimes.com/lanow

You saw the note from Russ about the Mapping L.A. project – about 24 hours later, there are more than 850 comments from readers, many of them drawing their own maps and having smart, often heated debates about the boundaries of our city’s neighborhoods. [The memo from Editor Russ Stanton and California Editor David Lauter is pasted in below.] Check out this piece from KTLA about the project, featuring David Lauter. Here’s an excerpt from one comment from a reader who sees where it’s all going:

Giving the readers a place to share their views of the communities like this, to me is fantastic!   And if you read more into what this “map” is, you will see that it will be a hell of a lot more than drawing out neighborhood boundary lines.   As this “map” develops, it looks to me that it will be place for people to get stories and information about their own neighborhood, their own back yard if you will….    crime reports, schools, city services etc.   

Even with the changes that LAT has gone through, again, just like every other paper out there, I say “Hats Off” to The Los Angeles Times for sticking it through and doing what they can to meet the needs of the community the best they can in this very difficult time.

But wait – there’s more. Metro and many others didn’t stop there – they broke new ground on the state budget coverage with live “tweets” to twitter.com/latimeslocal from the Sacramento team. Readers found this on our homepage as a sidebar (sidetweet?) to the main story. This only underlined points made in an interview published earlier this week with our social media guru Andrew Nystrom – the headline: LA Times embraces, chases social media.

Movie reviews got the video treatment this week from our expert voices:

-        Betsy Sharkey reviews “Medicine for Melancholy”

-        Kenneth Turan on “Moscow, Belgium”

And this audio slide show was embedded on the homepage last night (meaning readers could play it on the homepage), accompanying Scott Gold’s most recent Out There piece.

Look for an outstanding Oscars package coming this Sunday with a dramatic homepage layout during the show.

Just a few highlights of absolutely great work done by so many of you during an otherwise tough week.

Meredith Artley

Executive Editor, LATimes.com

Below is the memo sent to staff Thursday.

Colleagues:

As you saw in this morning's California section, today we are launching Mapping L.A., an interactive map dividing the city of Los Angeles into 87 neighborhoods. The idea is ambitious: Create a map of the nation's second largest city that has census information built into it.

Developed by the interactive team, this marks our first step toward being able to give our readers stories and information -- crime reports, school data, city services and more -- on a neighborhood level based on a consistent set of names and boundaries.

After weeks of work, we are putting the project out to the public and asking our readers for help. Using the website, readers can give us feedback including the ability to draw their own maps to show us where they think neighborhood boundaries should be. We’ll evaluate their suggestions and in a few weeks come out with our final map that will become Times style for community names. At that point, when we refer to a location within the city of Los Angeles, reporters and copy editors will be able to use an address search tool to determine the correct neighborhood.

In the future, the map will be helpful in other ways. We’ll be able to produce demographic profiles from census data on race/ethnicity, income, age, family characteristics and ancestry. We’ll use the maps to summarize any address-based data we acquire. And in maps representing regional data, Los Angeles can now become a fabric of neighborhoods instead of one big blob in the middle of the county. Eventually, we can expand the map to cover parts of our region outside the city.

Hats off to the data team, particularly Doug Smith, Maloy Moore, Sandra Poindexter, Megan Garvey, Ben Welsh, Tom Lauder and Bob Browning of the copy desk for the hard work that has gone into making this project possible. To see the project for yourself, check out: http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/

Russ Stanton
Editor

David Lauter
California Editor

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