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New beats for Ken Bensinger and Jerry Hirsch

January 21, 2010 |  6:01 pm

Below is a memo from Business Editor John Corrigan about new beats for reporters Ken Bensinger and Jerry Hirsch:

Two of our ace reporters in Business, Ken Bensinger and Jerry Hirsch, are stepping into new roles.

Ken, who has been covering the autos beat since 2007, will become our enterprise reporter, enabling him to pursue a broader variety of topics.  We’ll look to Ken for investigative reporting – his recent stories on Toyota’s runaway acceleration problem are a good example of that – as well as for pieces that take readers behind the curtain on everything from insurance practices to stock market hijinks, and perhaps a look at some interesting movers and shakers as well. 

Ken takes on this new role after a year of exemplary work on the autos beat, where he has been on one monster story after another, including  the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, the long slump in sales and  (who could forget?) Cash-for-Clunkers.  Along with Ralph Vartabedian, he has relentlessly pursued the Toyota sudden acceleration story, using his well-honed reporting skills to find a wealth of government statistics and personal accounts that call into question whether floormats were indeed the only culprit in the automaker’s 4-million-plus vehicle recall.

A graduate of Duke University, Ken’s career has included stops at the Wall Street Journal and Smart Money magazine. He also spent four years as a freelancer in Mexico City, where he wrote for Variety, the Christian Science Monitor and the Houston Chronicle, among other publications.

 He’s hoping his new assignment means no more winter trips to Detroit.

Jerry is taking on the Autos beat, where he has already managed to steer his way to Page One.

He comes to the assignment from the Food beat, where he had a terrific run of stories chronicling  supermarket price wars, the controversy over corn sweetener and even the advent of plastic bottles for premium wine, among other subjects.

Jerry has proven himself to have a keen eye for the kinds of stories that resonate with readers and rocket their way to the top of the most-viewed and most-emailed lists. Look for him to take our autos coverage in some new directions this year. In addition to keeping tabs on the industry’s nascent turnaround, he plans to pay close attention to how automakers adapt to increased demands for environmentally friendly cars and manufacturing processes.

 And given  Southern California’s historic role as a center of car culture, he’ll also look for stories that speak to our unique fascination with all things auto.

With a bachelor's from UC  Davis and a master’s from Northwestern,  Jerry has plied his trade at shops including the Orange County Register and Daily Breeze before making his way here a decade ago.

Please join me in congratulating Ken and Jerry on their challenging new assignments.