Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

Category: General information

Readers' Rep blog has moved...

As of Sept. 10, 2012, the Readers' Rep blog has moved to http://www.latimes.com/news/local/readers-rep/.

Please visit us there and share any questions or comments you have about Times coverage.

--Deirdre Edgar

Grant will fund five reporting positions at L.A. Times

The Times will add five reporters, including one in Brazil, after receiving a $1-million grant from the Ford Foundation.

An article by Times media reporter James Rainey has the details:

The Los Angeles Times will use a $1-million grant from the Ford Foundation to expand its coverage of key beats, including immigration and ethnic communities in Southern California, the southwest U.S. border and the emerging economic powerhouse of Brazil.

Times Editor Davan Maharaj announced the gift Thursday, calling it "great news" that will bolster coverage of subjects vitally important to readers.

A Ford Foundation spokesman said that, as media organizations face challenges funding reporting through advertising and traditional revenue streams, "we and many other funders are experimenting with new approaches to preserve and advance high-quality journalism."

The Times plans to use the two-year grant to hire journalists who will focus on the Vietnamese, Korean and other immigrant communities, the California prison system, the border region and Brazil. Maharaj said that although The Times already covered those beats, the reporting was typically done by journalists who also had other responsibilities. The five new reporters will provide more robust coverage of those topics.

A memo from Maharaj (below) notes that the grant comes "with no strings attached."

"We have complete control over editorial content and are free to pursue whatever stories we deem appropriate," Maharaj said.

The memo to the newsroom from Editor Davan Maharaj:

Continue reading »

Times ending Sunday magazine with June 3 issue

A memo from Times President Kathy K. Thomson:

Many of you have been involved in the various incarnations of The Times’ Sunday magazine--it has taken on several different titles and wonderful forms over the years. However, the entire magazine industry has been faced with a very challenging environment. We are not immune to the challenges and have made the decision that LA, Los Angeles Times Magazine will publish its final issue on June 3rd.

May_2012_coverI’d like to acknowledge Nancie Clare, Rip Georges, Mayer Rus and the entire LATM team’s excellent work and dedication these past few years. The magazine’s signature cover stories and stunning fashion photography have generated buzz among tastemakers, advertisers, readers and high-profile media outlets. LATM has garnered recognition including the RFK Center for Journalism Award for International Photography and multiple awards from the Society for News Design. Its unique juxtaposition of high and low culture and compelling mix of stories and essays has made it a definitive handbook for life in Southern California. The magazine’s website, Facebook and Twitter will remain active through the end of the June with clients, fans and followers gradually transitioned to the relevant lifestyle coverage in The Times.

We are in the process of developing a new special quarterly product focused on luxury, design, fashion and style. The publication will highlight seasonal trends and occasions with print, digital and mobile iterations intended to further enhance our feature coverage and deepen our connection with our members and advertising partners.

We also have a number of featured-related efforts underway or currently being planned, which include:

  • Saturday: advertisers and readers are increasingly embracing our go-to guide for food and dining, health and fitness and home and design. We have great feedback from our members who are connecting with the refreshing editorial tone and it is performing well financially.
  • Our fourth ebook, SoCal Close-Ups, will make our award-winning travel content available in a portable format well suited to exploration.
  • Rock/Style, our music and fashion extravaganza, enters its third year with Macy’s as its presenting sponsor and its second year at hipster hangout the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
  • The TASTE will further cement its Labor Day beachhead in its second year and our programming will reflect a heightened L.A.-centric “flavor” inspired by our outstanding food coverage.

Please join me in thanking the talented LATM team for their efforts and know that your continued hard work is appreciated.

 

‘Doonesbury’ moves to Op-Ed page this week

Doonesbury3.12

The Times has moved this week’s “Doonesbury” comic strip to the Op-Ed page, and “Doonesbury” reruns will run in the strip’s place on the Comics page.

Editors were concerned about this week’s story line, which takes on a Texas law requiring women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound.

In one panel, artist Garry Trudeau depicts a young woman being confronted by a “middle-aged male state legislator” who asks her, “Do your parents know you’re a slut?”

In another, in which the woman is about to undergo the required transvaginal ultrasound, the doctor describes the ultrasound probe as a “10-inch shaming wand” and refers to the procedure as a rape.

“We felt the story line was a little over the top for a comics page,” Times Assistant Managing Editor Alice Short said.

According to the Associated Press, several other newspapers, including the Kansas City Star, and the Gainesville Sun and Ocala Banner in Florida, also opted to run replacement strips. The Pocono Record in Pennsylvania told AP that it would move the strips to the op-ed page for the week.

The company that syndicates "Doonesbury," Universal UClick, expected as many as 20 to 30 of the 1,440 newspapers that run "Doonesbury" to opt out, AP reported.

--Deirdre Edgar

Image: Monday's "Doonesbury" comic strip. Credit: GoComics

No more stars in Times restaurant reviews

The Times' Daily Dish blog has a post from Food Editor Russ Parsons with an explanation about a new way of rating restaurants: 

Starting this week, The Times will no longer run star ratings with our restaurant reviews. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, star ratings are increasingly difficult to align with the reality of dining in Southern California -- where your dinner choices might include a food truck, a neighborhood ethnic restaurant, a one-time-only pop-up run by a famous chef, and a palace of fine dining. Clearly, you can’t fairly assess all these using the same rating system. Furthermore, the stars have never been popular with critics because they reduce a thoughtful and nuanced critique to a simple score. In its place, we’ll offer a short summary of the review.

 

Coming March 10: New 'Saturday' section, and Jonathan Gold

A memo from Times Editor Davan Maharaj announces the return of Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, as well as Gold's debut March 10 in The Times' new Saturday section:

Jonathan GoldPlease join me in welcoming an old friend back to our newsroom.

Jonathan Gold is joining the Los Angeles Times as a restaurant critic and columnist — in print and with special online reports.

His love of all things gastronomical has taken him from the L.A. Weekly (where he started as proofreader in 1982), to the Los Angeles Times (1990-96, where he wrote his Counter Intelligence column), to Gourmet (where he was the magazine’s New York restaurant critic) and back to the L.A. Weekly (where he worked for more than a decade). If you follow the L.A. food scene, you know about Jonathan’s ability to find and savor Uzbek, Korean, Peruvian and Islamic Chinese cuisine. He discovered the only Trinidadian restaurant in Inglewood.

You’ve probably heard about crickets, fried grasshoppers and some animal parts that Jonathan has consumed in pursuit of outstanding food journalism. Five years ago, he won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism — the first win for a food writer. He was a Pulitzer finalist last year as well. He has been honored twice as a National Magazine Award finalist in criticism by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

“He sees Los Angeles as ‘the anti-melting pot’ — the home of true, undiluted regional cookery — but also has a fondness for what he calls the ‘triple carom’: the Cajun seafood restaurant that caters to Chinese customers and is run by Vietnamese from Texas,” Dana Goodyear wrote in a 2009 profile of Jonathan in the New Yorker. He is, Goodyear added, “sly and erudite, withdrawn in person and in print exuberant.”

Jonathan will join an award-winning staff that includes Times Food Editor Russ Parsons and restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila in our never-ending quest to chronicle the greatest food scene in America. His work will first appear on March 10 in our new Saturday print section and online at latimes.com/food.

Photo: Jonathan Gold masking his identity with a tortilla at El Parian restaurant in Los Angeles. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

 

Changes coming to Sunday Comics section

Sunday-comics

The Sunday Comics section is being redesigned. Beginning March 4, there will be a single four-page section.

Most strips will remain in the new Sunday format, however, Stone Soup and Home and Away will no longer be published. The Kids’ Reading Room also is being scaled back.

Comments are welcome at comics@latimes.com.

 

Times announces paid 'membership' for latimes.com

The Times has announced a paid "membership" program for latimes.com. If you are a home delivery subscriber, you are already a "member" of latimes.com, and you won't be charged for reading beyond 15 articles.

Also, some features of the site won't be counted in your monthly articles, including the Games page and the Readers' Representative Journal.

An article by Jerry Hirsch explains the "membership" program vs. a "paywall":

Although digital payment plans are commonly known as "paywalls," The Times is billing its plan as a "membership program" that will include retail discounts, deals and giveaways, as well as access to digital news.

Hirsch's article has details of the payment plans that will be offered to those who aren't already home delivery subscribers.

A registration page has been set up at latimes.com/membership, though it says information will not be available until March 5.

--Deirdre Edgar

 

Artist looks back on a year of drawing The Times

Los Angeles artist Erik Shveima set out last Jan. 1 on a personal project to draw the Los Angeles Times every day of 2011. In a guest post, he looks back on the endeavor:

This past year the paper kept me up at night.

Not because I worry about its future (although I do, in fact, worry about its future), but because of what that worry compelled me to do.

Mmd-01_01_2011In late 2010 I decided to dedicate the coming year to drawing the Los Angeles Times — the front page in particular — every day.  By the end I would have a portrait of the year’s news, a 21st century commonplace book dedicated to the mystery of news cycles, serif fonts and spadeas (which, I learned from a commenter, is what those half-page ads that wrap around the A section are called). I called the project Mixed Media Daily, and I posted the drawings every day.

It felt like the right time to do this project. Newspaper readership is in decline. Cities across the country were seeing their local rag stop the presses forever. If these ominous indicators eventually do add up to a death knell for my local paper, I wanted to at least try to give it a proper sendoff, and maybe help myself understand why exactly I was so sure that I would miss it if it were gone.

I settled on simple materials: a red correction pencil to work out the sketch, a B or 2B pencil to clean it up, markers for color, acrylic paint for fill and sometimes for other effects. About halfway through the process I began inking the drawings for a tighter, crisper line. 

For the first several drawings I felt like I was still using reader’s eyes; I was reading the paper as a series of discrete stories interspersed with photos and the occasional ad from some guy named Bijan.

Eventually, I began to see the front page differently. I was no longer just reading the paper but also engaged in a daily dissection and reconfiguring of its guts. I read it as an object instead of a collection of stories, and in so doing found a network of repetitions and rhymes and curious text fragments embedded in the headlines — like the front page was having a conversation with itself. 

Mmd-11-12-2011These sometimes appealing, sometimes appalling, often funny relationships were so prevalent that mashing together rhyming couplets from the day’s headlines became a daily compulsion. There’s so much hidden poetry in each A1, and once you start looking closely it’s like getting on your knees to examine the desert ground and discovering a whole rich ecosystem thriving in what appears at a distance to be nothing but sand.

And I did draw the actual paper every day — the thickness of the A section, the particular way the pages were askew, the dog-eared corners that result from the paper being held and folded and unfolded and, you know, used.

I really do enjoy the feel of the paper, the inky residue left on your hands afterward, the smell and weight of it — I get tired of spending so much time in a digital world where half of one’s senses are completely neglected.

The common thread binding the mostly unrelated stories on the front page is that they all occurred at roughly the same point in time. That’s a lot of random information to cohere, and somehow the front page makes the union of this disparate information inevitable.

Mmd-09-11-2011Even a day when the paper is devoted to the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 and there at the bottom of the page is an ad announcing that the Kardashians are appearing in person at a local Sears — that feels about right. Of course it would happen that way; that’s our world, after all. I used to think of these occurrences as a hilarious friction, but now I understand that it’s just a big reflecting pool filled with soy-based inks. Every part of the paper, every story and every photo and every bar graph ultimately resolves into one big experience.

I still read the paper every day, only now the paper looks different to me. I’m pretty sure this is a permanent change. When I look at the front page I am confronted with a beautiful surrealist assemblage that floats up and out of the day’s top stories and sometimes gives me the real story. I don’t know if my way is any better or worse than the way the average reader sees the paper, but I will roll with it. I’ll get my news through a scrim of psychedelia.

RELATED:

Q&A with Eric Shveima: Drawing The Times every day

— Erik Shveima, Mixed Media Daily

Photos from top: The Jan. 1, 2011, page; the page from Nov. 12; the Sept. 11 page. Credit: Erik Shveima.

A new look for the Saturday Op-Ed page

Opinion8.6 Starting this week, the Saturday editorials and opinion pieces will be consolidated onto a single page.

On the page will be one or two editorials and Patt Morrison's interview column. And instead of a string of letters to the editor, a single letter will be featured and will include a response from a Times reporter or editor.

Op-Ed Editor Sue Horton explained the idea behind the new feature, called "Postscript":

"Susan Brenneman, deputy editor of the op-ed page, had been noticing that we often got letters that seemed to call for responses. But there was no forum in the paper for answering them," Horton said.

"Individual writers or editors or the Readers' Rep would often send a reply, but Susan wondered why we couldn't address some of the issues raised in a more public forum. Starting Saturday, with Postscript, we will be."

The type of letters in mind are those asking Times coverage, op-ed columns or news decisions.

To submit a question for Postscript, send it as you would a Letter to the Editor, to letters@latimes.com or by using the online form. More details are on the Letters page.

--Deirdre Edgar

 

Readers may be cross, but puzzle creator's aim is fun

"Cross words about the crossword" -- readers Karen Banse and Jonathan Mandel each wrote with a similar play on words. They are among the readers who have emailed recently to lament changes in The Times' Sunday crossword puzzle.

The complaints have a sad origin. Sylvia Bursztyn, who had been creating Sunday crosswords for The Times since 1980, died Dec. 30. Her last puzzle was published Jan. 9.

Reagle Since then, puzzles by Merl Reagle, which had alternated weeks with Bursztyn's, have run each Sunday.

Bursztyn had a loyal following. She joined Barry Tunick in April 1980 to help create the Sunday crossword and continued on her own after his death in 2007. Though Reagle has his own cadre of fans across the country, his style is quite different from hers.

In recent weeks, readers have complained that Reagle's puzzles are "way-out-of-the-box challenging," "stilted, relying on puns" and "an exercise in irritation."

"Change is a hard thing, and solving is a very personal thing," Reagle said by email.

Reagle’s Oscar-themed puzzle on Feb. 27 used numerals in two of the answers, which raised some hackles. "Stop using numbers in your puzzles," Carolyn Gordon wrote in an email that she asked be forwarded to Reagle. "It isn't cute, and it isn't clever. It's just cheating, plain and simple. If you want to SPELL out the numbers, as in 'five' and 'three,' that's allowed, but using the number depicted as a number isn't fair."

Reagle said the use of numbers -- or multiple letters, or easily drawn shapes -- in an answer square is common in crossword magazines as well as in the New York Times puzzle.

"I wouldn't want to do one every week -- far from it -- but I thought I'd at least do a few with numerals for starters," he said in his email. "Mind you, this is not a casual, willy-nilly thing; the numerals have to be parts of theme answers, not just something thrown in for variety's sake. In the case of my recent Oscar crossword it was necessary because the movies being punned on were '127 Hours' and 'Toy Story 3'  -- and spelling the numbers out would have looked pretty weird."

Continue reading »

New Sunday section for Burbank, Glendale

As Tiffany Hsu reported in Wednesday's Business section, Times subscribers in Burbank, Glendale and nearby areas will be receiving a new Sunday section.

The Sunday News-Press & Leader, which will cover local news, sports and entertainment, will be included in Sunday editions of The Times beginning Jan. 30.

In his year-end note to the staff, Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein listed the upcoming section as part of the paper's commitment to local coverage.

The section will be produced by the Glendale News-Press and the Burbank Leader.

 

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