Thursday, September 22, 2005

LA Cowboy Lunches With Los Angeles Times Publisher Jeffrey Johnson and LA Times Editor Dean Baquet!

OK - so maybe the above headline is just a tad... misleading. So sue me! It got you to read this far, didn't it?

Any ways, that headline is actually even kinda, sorta, almost true... in a very LA Times kind of way. I did have lunch with them at the Biltmore Hotel - along with a couple hundred other people - since Jeffrey M. Johnson was there as guest speaker at the monthly CCA (Central City Association) Luncheon and Dean Baquet was introduced from the audience.

I was also introduced to Jeffrey by CCA president Carol Schatz (who clearly has never read this blog when she suggested that he would like to meet me) and when I walked up to Dean Baquet afterwards, our esteemed Councilwoman Jan Perry approached and made the 'official' introduction while she stood between us and surreptitiously patted me down for weapons before removing herself as a human shield. Dean then confessed he knew who I was and I invited to give him a real tour of downtown, such as the type of tour he would be able to give me of downtown... New Orleans.

So what did Johnson have to say?

Mainly platitudes, the kind of thing you'd expect him to say, but there was also some meat towards the end. He proudly proclaimed LA was now his home, that he loved here and that he never wants to leave. Of course, this is the kind of thing he has to say - but he actually said it in a way that I think I believed him.

As for the real meat, they are appointing a new editor to handle just the on-line edition of the Times, giving it more of an individual identity. That I think will be a big step forward. He also stated that Dean Baquet's long promised foray into the community beyond the walls of Spring Street will begin with a 'meet the editor' luncheon in Orange County with civic leaders next month (and also with some people who might actually read the paper) and that those types of meetings will continue throughout the LAT's circulation zone. That way, by this time next year, Dean will have met all of the LA Times' remaining subscribers.

JJ also stated that the demise of the national edition was minimal in relation to national influence since national opinion leaders still read the whole paper on-line - and I concur. He next said that they will not again print a San Diego edition since it is not one of their five county (LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties) home area. He also discussed the challenges facing the paper - even with no head-on competition - and the first challenge he mentioned was... blogs. It also seemed as if he was looking straight at me, but I am certain that was strictly my imagination.

He later revealed that the ever infamous Editorial Board will soon be hosting public events and attending public events so we can get to know them better and vice versa. He also talked about increasing regional edition coverage, and said they were buying local regional newspapers (citing papers in La Canada and La Crescenta, along with starting the Spanish language HOY), but it was hard to tell if he meant there would be more zoned regional coverage in the LA Times itself.

One main focus of the Times, he proclaimed, was that they were now going to 'own' the subject of entertainment, admitting that as of right now - they don't. One new feature will be an on-line site covering all the entertainment awards on a full time basis. I'm not certain what demand/interest there is for that, but I guess... it's something.

Johnson also promised there will soon be the start of actual coverage of... Los Angeles... in the Los Angeles Times, though he did word it somewhat differently than I just did, as you can imagine. And the Opinion Section (which they will hopefully soon re-rename the current, Current Section, though he did not say that) will soon have increasing numbers local writers and more coverage of local issues.

Written questions were then submitted by the audience members to be answered to him. I submitted one.

Mine, shockingly - was not chosen to be answered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How are the online editor and publisher going to be able to do anything good if they have to go through a committee of all the old, entrenched L.A. Timesers to get anything approved? I hear from a friend of a friend at the Times that that's the case. Dumb. Hire an editor with good taste and good ideas, then amputate his ability to use it. Business as usual, I guess.