Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

Category: Ask the staff

Introducing #LAThelp on Twitter

Do you have a question or comment about something involving The Times?

Do you use Twitter?

Now you can tag your tweet with the hashtag #LAThelp, and you'll get a reply from me, @latimesbeck or one of the many helpful editors behind @latimesreplies.

You also can search #LAThelp for answers to other readers' questions.

(Don't worry, you still can reach The Times by phone -- (877) 554-4000 -- and e-mail too.)

Chat with Test Kitchen Manager Noelle Carter

Testkitchen
Times Test Kitchen Manager Noelle Carter will be chatting with readers at 11 a.m. She'll talk about creating a memorable Easter meal and will answer your food-related questions.

Photo: Carter, left, in the Los Angeles Times test kitchen with interns. Credit: KCRW


Coming Friday: Chat with James Oliphant on healthcare

Oliphant  James Oliphant from the Washington Bureau will be chatting with readers on Friday about the healthcare legislation passed by the House on Sunday night and signed by President Obama on Tuesday.

Oliphant covered the reaction House Democrats were receiving from constituents the day after the historic vote, and the next day wrote about Republican strategies for fighting the legislation.

Come back to latimes.com/readers at 11 a.m. Friday to ask him your questions about the political process and potential fallout in Congress from the legislation's passage.

Friday: Chat with reporter Duke Helfand on Anthem Blue Cross

Times staff writer Duke Helfand has been reporting on a proposal by health insurer Anthem Blue Cross to raise rates as much as 39%, a story that has drawn the attention of the Obama administration. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called on the company to give a “detailed justification” for the rate increase, which the insurer has since delayed.

Helfand will chat with readers about the story at 11 a.m. Friday. Come back to latimes.com/readers to ask him your questions.

Why do writers' names come at the end of a blog post?

Twitter follower Dave Hersam asks: Why do the writers’ names on blogs come at the end of the post instead of at the beginning, like on an article in the print edition? 

“Most blog posts are by same author, but within Hero Complex or ShowTracker (two I often read),  there are several writers.”

Times blog editor Tony Pierce explains that it’s primarily because of Google:

“Its summaries only pull in the first two lines. We'd rather those lines be the lede, not the author. We do, however, plan on having an improved template around late spring which will either elevate the author's name or move it to a different part of the blog. … The writers want their names higher too.”

--Deirdre Edgar

Twitter: @LATreadersrep

Thursday: Chat with reporter Ken Bensinger

Bensinger Times staff writer Ken Bensinger will be chatting with readers at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Bensinger has been covering the Toyota story since September, and his investigations with Ralph Vartabedian have been cited by the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and Fox Business News.

Last week, Columbia Journalism Review credited The Times with being "first and all alone on Toyota," thanks to Bensinger and Vartabedian's reporting.

Come back to latimes.com/readers to ask him your questions.

EARLIER:

A driven pursuit of a story

Coming Thursday: Reader chat with Joe Mozingo

Join us here at 11 a.m. Thursday for a live chat with Times reporter Joe Mozingo. He was one of the first reporters to arrive in Haiti after the devastating earthquake and will answer reader questions about his experiences there.

Repackaging The Times

As a full-page ad in today's main section tells readers, The Times on Tuesday will move its California section, long the B section of the newspaper, into an expanded A section that also will continue to include national and international news reports. The opinion and editorial pages, too, will stay in the main section.

The changes are to save money, as a January Business story explained, by requiring fewer press runs.

The streamlining means that on most weekdays, Los Angeles Times readers will receive four main sections, as well as Health on Mondays, Food on Wednesdays and Home on Saturdays. Sunday's sections will be unaffected.

More answers and explanations are below.

Continue reading »

Comics, take 3

"According to Wednesday's paper this site is suppose to give the reason why you canceled Sally Forth. I find no reason given other than 'we wanted  to'.  ... It takes a lot of nerve not to listen to the people who keep you in your job , even if you think they give 'skewed responses.' "

That's an excerpt from Rachel Engler's comment, one of hundreds that have come in since readers learned of the change-up on The Times' comics pages (see post from Sunday).

Since then, two posts on this journal have tried to provide some of the thinking behind the changes, but readers have been left with some reasonable questions.

Readers were asked for several months about whether one strip should stay or go -- "For Better or for Worse." Yet Monday they were told both that "FBOFW" wasn't coming back and that a second strip that they didn't know was being considered for expulsion was also dropped ("Sally Forth").

Why were readers even polled, readers asked, especially if they found out later that editors don't rely entirely on reader input?

And what are the reasons behind what was called a "subjective" decision in dropping "Sally Forth"?

Alice Short, the assistant managing editor who oversees features, goes into detail that many say should have been given to them in the first place.

Continue reading »

Why weren't readers asked about Ted and Sally?*

Many individuals left comments on the original post on this journal to ask why readers were not given a chance to voice their opinions on the plans for "Sally Forth," as they were with "For Better or for Worse." Here's the context: The Times, and other newspapers, often change comics without alerting readers beforehand. The months-long process on whether to keep or drop Lynn Johnston's strip was an exception because the creator had made the decision to stop doing new comics, which gave editors at The Times a clear opportunity to weigh the past vs. the future.

In general, though, the process of choosing strips is like every other editorial decision made in a newsroom -- subjective. Not every reader is going to like every decision made, just as not every reader agrees on what strips are great and which are garbage.

To paraphrase the washingtonpost.com story that is also linked in the original post, polling readers -- especially when it comes to comics -- often isn't useful. Such polling often results in skewed responses, when fans or even authors of strips urge others to write in, creating lopsided votes.

That's one reason readers aren't typically polled beforehand. However, their voices do count, though they're not necessarily counted up as in a vote. Sherry Stern, deputy editor in Features, notes: "Editors put a lot of thought into what goes into the paper, the comics included. Hearing what readers think is an important part of the process."

*Update: In response to a number of readers asking if cost was a consideration in the decision on which comics to run and which to drop: No, cost was not a consideration. (If it were, The Times probably wouldn't continue to devote pages to the comic strips that do run.) That doesn't change the fact, of course, that plenty of readers didn't like this decision.

*A new post on this topic added Thursday addresses more reader comments.

When it comes to comics, the winners are ... *

This note will appear in Monday's Calendar section:

To Our Readers

Today we introduce two new comics to our daily lineup: "Stone Soup" by Jan Eliot and "Home and Away" by Steve Sicula. They replace  "For Better or for Worse" and "Sally Forth." For more about our decision, go to latimes.com/readersrep. And comments are welcome at comics (at) latimes.com.

Sherry Stern, the editor who oversees the comics, has been asking readers their thoughts for the past several months as a variety of strips were given five-week trial runs. The entry on this journal for the most recent try-out, "Stone Soup," includes links to previous posts as well.

Readers were variously tickled and annoyed at the chance to vote, as Stern's explanation below says.

Continue reading »

Keepsakes of the Obama inauguration

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The lines outside The Times' Spring Street lobby are reminiscent of those on Nov. 5, when giddy crowds gathered to buy copies of the newspaper that recorded the historic election of Barack Obama as president. According to Times staffers arriving to work, people were lined up as early as 5:30 a.m.  Director of customer relations Carole Stein says that when she got to the building, people were in lawn chairs outside awaiting the hour the lobby would open for sales of the Jan. 21 newspaper. In fact, sales started at 7, an hour earlier than planned, prompted by the enthusiasm and numbers of people seeking the paper and other mementos of yesterday's inauguration.

An extra 250,000 copies were produced last night, and readers from around the country are calling to ask where they can buy today's Times; supplies are being restocked at all store locations throughout the day.

In any case, more are on the way: The circulation department had churned out more than 100,000 additional copies, for a total of about 350,000 as of noon.

Continue reading »
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