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Times publisher cites the year's highlights

December 23, 2010 |  3:58 pm

Publisher Eddy Hartenstein sent the following memo to Times employees:


As we approach year-end, I want to thank each and every one of you for doing your part in this enterprise we call the Los Angeles Times Media Group.

And “doing” is the understatement of the year. Together, we have far exceeded our own stated mission of being the No. 1 source of news and information for Southern California. We have continually and methodically improved upon our goals of serving the diverse communities and constituencies of our immense geographic region, and done so throughout 2010 with distinctive style and, above all, heart and soul.

It is well worth the “ink” to highlight a number of our business and editorial accomplishments. They encompass giving our readers some of the best journalism anywhere in the world, with an emphasis on accountability reporting and news they can use, as well as creating new digital, event and distribution revenue streams. We are committing resources to areas that we know are of key interest to our readers and advertisers, and that make California the unique place that it is. All of these efforts are aimed at further distinguishing our coverage and reach in the crowded media landscape.

Our editorial highlights include:

  • Investigating Bell and other L.A. County cities in articles that unraveled a sea of corruption, fraud and mismanagement of public funds.
  • Unveiling a groundbreaking project that sought to determine the effectiveness of thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers in raising students’ test scores. Drawing on data the district had largely ignored, our “Grading the Teachers” project fueled an intense national debate over how teachers should be evaluated and whether the results should be made public.
  • Shining a light on flaws in the L.A. County child welfare system, where children under its care continue to die.
  • Remaining one of the handful of news organizations committed to foreign news, with a staff of dedicated correspondents covering the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the deadly drug war in Mexico, the economic crisis in Europe, the tensions between North and South Korea, life in Africa and developments in the ever-changing China and India.
  • Providing the only late-breaking print report in Southern California – LATExtra – detailing events such as the San Bruno pipeline explosion, congressional passage of the tax-cut bill, Toyota’s Prius recall and the North Korea missile strike.
  • Continuing to lead in the digital era, providing a wide range of searchable databases on important issues such as neighborhood crime, as well as blogs focused on specialty pursuits like photography and video (Framework), technology (Tech Blog) and health (Booster Shots).
  • Hiring more reporters and editors to cover L.A.’s signature arts and entertainment industry.
  • Adding reporters to what was already the largest newsgathering bureau in our state capital.
  • Increasing the number of staff writers contributing to our Book Review.
  • Unveiling a new, weekly Op-Ed column focused on local government and politics.
  • Launching a new weekly print television listings guide, TV Times.
  • Better engaging in dialogue with our readers by dramatically increasing our Readers’ Representative Journal efforts, sharing more information about the inner workings of the newsroom, what goes into the decisions about coverage and how readers react to them.
  • Ensuring that we serve Southern California’s important and diverse audiences with unique editorial products, as we continue to enhance Brand X, Hoy and Los Angeles Times Magazine.
At present, more than 80% of The Times’ flagship editorial staff is focused on Southern California coverage, which is the largest percentage in our long history. In addition, our Times Community Newspaper titles, including the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun, Huntington Beach Independent, Daily Pilot and Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, are providing distinct local coverage and regularly contributing to L.A. Now. In late January, we’ll be adding a new Sunday title to the TCN mix.

Other aspects of our community engagement efforts include:

  • Presenting the largest public literary festival in North America. The Festival of Books’ 15th storied year saw us breaking attendance records last April and announcing an exciting move to the USC campus for 2011.
  • Granting $1.8 million-plus to 71 nonprofit organizations – providing education, literacy and journalism programs to low-income youth throughout Southern California – via the Los Angeles Times Family Fund’s Summer Camp Campaign and Holiday Campaign and in partnership with the McCormick Foundation.
  • Distributing more than 1 million Reading by 9 “Parent Reading Guides” via Hoy and The Times’ Sunday edition, as well as providing an additional 300,000 copies for teachers, educators and parents.

For our advertising partners, we are creating innovative solutions as well as sponsorship and marketing opportunities such as:

  • Expanding Hoy Fin de Semana’s distribution from 500K to 700K.
  • Launching Times Select to provide new ROP and preprint coverage.
  • Debuting the Hero Complex Film Festival, Culture Monster Roundtable (with Dudamel and Domingo yet!), Celebration of Food & Wine and Los Angeles Times Magazine’s RockStyle extravaganza, among other new events – resulting in events revenue increasing by more than 80%.
  • Taking a new approach to political advertising resulting in previously untapped revenue.
  • Increasing small-business self-service ads by 40%.
  • Tapping into the lucrative co-op advertising marketplace.
  • Doubling mobile revenue.

Operationally, we undertook a massive project to mothball our Orange Country printing plant to save millions in costs, while investing in new color towers and state-of-the-art equipment that enhance capabilities at the Olympic plant. We continue to be the go-to provider for West Coast printing and distribution for customers such as the Wall Street Journal, the Orange County Register, the New York Times, USA Today, the Financial Times and many more.

We are continuing to invest in our print circulation base by enhancing single-copy distribution. We contracted with companies focused solely on rack and store allocation, adding hundreds of distribution points during the year. The Times also established a distribution network in San Diego County, adding several thousand new home delivery customers in that important segment of our market.

It’s important to note that we did all of this against the backdrop of a very challenging economy and that we’ll complete this year with improved operating cash flow over the prior year.

Your hard work allowed The Times to contribute significantly to Tribune’s projected $600 million-plus in consolidated operating cash flow for 2010, and all will benefit financially under our 401(k) savings plan, as stated in yesterday’s note.

Looking forward, I’m even more excited that 2011 will be the year we kick our digital initiatives into overdrive. With new mandates at Tribune Digital and Tribune Technology, we will start the year by implementing our mobile product strategy, debuting an Android app around mid-January and, shortly thereafter, an iPad app that will join the iPhone apps we launched last summer. Add to that our plans to roll out our very own tablet initiative in the second half of next year, and I think you’ll agree that our digital pipeline is in high gear.

So stay tuned, keep “doing” what you’re doing.

I could not be prouder of what we’ve achieved so far, and we’re well positioned to continue the great momentum in the coming 12 months!