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New beats for Landsberg, Lin, Saillant and Winton

January 14, 2010 | 10:30 am

Below the break is the announcement from David Lauter, assistant managing editor, California, about new assignments for reporters Mitchell Landsberg, who will cover religion; Ron Lin, who will cover L.A. County; Catherine Saillant, assigned to cover regional government; and Richard Winton, whose beat will be regional crime.

With the new year, we’ve got new assignments for four reporters:

Mitchell Landsberg: religion writer
I don’t need to say much about Mitchell – he’s one writer of whom we can truly say his work speaks for itself. Whether he’s playing the crucial rewrite role on a major wildfire or producing fascinating enterprise on the education beat, Mitchell writes stories that are invariably clear, beautifully detailed and carefully reported. His wide range of experience, both as a foreign correspondent and as a reporter here in Southern California, will provide excellent background for the diversity of stories and themes on the religion beat. As I noted when we posted the opening for a religion writer, this is a beat that has been a signature of the L.A. Times long before other major news organizations recognized its importance. In Mitchell’s hands, we’ll continue that fine tradition.

Ron Lin: L.A. County
By now, Ron’s name is indelibly linked with the word “map,” as in, “Did you see that great Ron Lin fire map?” But his skills in using Google technology should not overshadow Ron’s ability as a reporter and writer. He’s done excellent work on the health beat in the last couple of years, in particular his stories about problems at Las Encinas hospital, and he has demonstrated great skill at writing breaking news stories, including this weekend’s story of the Eureka earthquake. Ron will put all those skills to good use in tackling the hugely complicated and often recalcitrant bureaucracy of the L.A. County government. In the last two years, we’ve produced one tremendous piece of enterprise after another out of the county beat. The supervisors and their employees need to be watched, and there’s more than enough to keep two reporters busy full time and then some. Having Ron join Garrett Therolf on the beat will help us maintain our momentum on enterprise without losing track of the major news that demands to be covered.

Kay Saillant: regional government
Kay is known for her ability to dive into the fine print of local government and find great stories on topics such as public pensions, health policy and, most recently, flood maps. She’s spent most of her years at The Times focused on Ventura County government, but in this new assignment, we’ll ask her to apply her skills to a broad range of municipalities outside of the city of L.A., looking for trends and common issues in city halls across the region. Whether the topic is land-use planning, public services, zoning or government operations, we’ll be looking to Kay to connect the dots and find the underlying stories, with a particular eye to how the recession and the state’s seemingly endless fiscal crisis are reshaping the way cities operate and provide services to taxpayers.

Richard Winton: regional crime
When Raymond Chandler described the dogged private eye, he chose words that apply well to Richard: “He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness." Richard’s prolific crime reporting and contagious enthusiasm for the chase have made him a newsroom institution. In this assignment, he will continue to be on the front lines when crimes break, producing stories both for the Web and print. But he will also be expanding his scope to focus on coverage of other important law enforcement agencies, including regional police departments, the California Highway Patrol and the L.A. County coroner's office as he looks to find and develop regional trend stories on crime and the efforts to combat it.

Please join me in congratulating all four of our colleagues on these new assignments.