Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

Category: Design

Backstage at The Times on Oscar night


Oscar night at The Times is a major production — perhaps not as large as that of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but pretty big nonetheless.

And as with any event, it takes a large group of people behind the scenes to pull it all together.

Assistant Managing Editor Michael Whitley, who oversees The Times' design editors, chronicled production of the Oscars edition with photos that he tweeted periodically. By the end of the night, he'd posted more than 30, and they provide a glimpse into the work that went into Monday's newspaper.

What inspired him?

I probably get asked more about Oscar night at the L.A. Times than anything else we do. So posting the photos was kind of a last-minute idea (and I really didn’t even think it though all the way). I just took a photo and posted it. It was a way for me to get out some of the nervous energy I feel early in the night when we are waiting a lot.

And as I went along and took a few more, I got some emails from friends in the journalism community saying they liked seeing the process unfold and could I keep it up. So I did the best I could while also still editing the section.

The Oscars coverage is one of my favorite things we do, and I’m glad other people are interested enough to look in on how we do it.

Here are just a few of Whitley's photos, with comments he provided Monday:

Continue reading »

'Reform, objectively' -- but obscured

Oped319 The debate over healthcare legislation draws quite a bit of reader comment. A Q&A article Friday, "Reform, objectively," was no exception, except, unfortunately, the reaction was for a different reason.

An illustration that was intended to fade into the background of the article on the Op-Ed page instead was so dark that it blocked out a fair portion of the text.

Callers were frustrated:

“The article seems like it would be good to read except that you have put an eagle over the printing. It’s dark. Doesn’t make sense.”

“You’re making your Op-Ed page too decorative, which causes print to be unreadable. It’s very difficult.”

“The medical symbol interferes with reading the article. If you want us to read it, don’t make it hard.”

The illustration, by Wes Bausmith, is clever. It’s a takeoff on the caduceus, a symbol commonly used for medicine. But instead of intertwined snakes on the staff, it has two question marks.

Michael Whitley, assistant managing editor for design, said it was simply a mistake. The percentage of black used in the illustration was too high, he said, which caused it to print much darker than intended. The designer had made a proof of the page, but the light printout appeared to be fine. Checking it Friday on another proofer, after the page was published, revealed it to be too dark.

In the article, Jon Healey answers some questions about the healthcare overhaul with answers drawn mainly from the text of the Senate-passed healthcare bill, HR 3590, and the proposed reconciliation bill, HR 4872. The full article, which includes more questions and answers than were published in print, can be found at

--Deirdre Edgar

Twitter: @LATreadersrep

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