‘LAT’ Editor: Web Will Be ‘Primary Vehicle’ for News Delivery

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By: E&P Staff

Speaking to hundreds of Los Angeles Times journalists in the newspaper’s Harry Chandler auditorium this morning, editor James O’Shea outlined a bold plan to increase traffic and revenue from LATimes.com in the face of an increasingly difficult economic climate for newspaper publishers, and urged journalists to think of the Web site as the newspaper’s primary vehicle for news.

“We can’t hide from the fact that smart competitors such as Google and Craigslist are stealing readers and advertisers from us through innovative strategies that are undermining the business model we’ve relied on for decades,” said O’Shea, whose remarks were published in their entirety on the paper’s Web site.

He said today that the Times will fully integrate its print and online newsrooms, and named business editor Russ Stanton to the new position of Special Editor for Innovation.

“Currently we have a newspaper staff and an LATimes.com staff,” he said. “No more. From now on, there are no two staffs, there is just one. And we will function as one. One of Russ’s first jobs will be to help set up that newsroom.”

He said that LATimes.com would become the paper’s “primary vehicle for breaking news 24 hours a day.”

“We need to enter the newsroom and think about how we are going to break news on the Internet,” he said. In focusing on the Web, O’Shea urged staff to “think about the opportunities the online world presents for new and powerful means of storytelling,” pointing out that some of the interactivity and innovation he expected to develop were already being experimented with on the paper’s site.

O’Shea also said that there would be changes in the way the content in the print edition would be viewed. Where Web stories and blogs allow journalists an endless amount of space to give readers in-depth accounts, he said he wanted the physical paper to become “an even stronger vehicle for tightly-written context, analysis, interpretation and expertise.”

“Just as a blog is not a God-given right to inflict ignorance on an unsuspecting public, there’s no journalistic birthright for print reporters to write an 80 inch story when 30 inches will do,” said O’Shea. “The newspaper is the medium in which we must use editing and journalistic discipline to channel that online reservoir and funnel it into a pipeline that leads to our reader’s doorsteps.”

In addition to the team which would integrate the online and print departments, O’Shea said that the paper would establish a second newsroom group dedicated to redesigning the print edition, and announced that the Times, “like every other major paper” will move this fall to adapt a 48-inch press Web, which will make the paper narrower.

“We are going to do a real redesign, one that questions and challenges every section of the newspaper, a redesign that relates individual sections to the newspaper as a whole,” he said. The paper’s design will be a collaboration between those inside the newsroom as well as people from the outside who have applicable experience, he said, speculating that it would be a “phased” process over the coming year.

O’Shea urged staffers not to focus on the paper’s tightened belt and diminished resources (both in staff and in budget), and instead look to the future.

“Our fight is journalism’s fight,” he said. “We all know this is a great newspaper, capable of even greater things. The future is in our hands as great storytellers, the one constant in our ever-changing universe.

“We have a good story to tell so let’s start telling it and telling it well. Let’s make our great journalism available to an even wider audience; let’s show the world that newspapers and the journalists that create them are not dead. We are alive, well and fighting back.”

Having taken over at the paper in November, the push represents O’Shea’s first major initiative. A Tribune Co. veteran, O’Shea assumed the position after several tumultuous months at the newspaper that saw the departures of both publisher Jeff Johnson and editor Dean Baquet, who both left after protesting deep cuts to the paper’s staff.

In recent months, the newspaper has been affected by Tribune’s decision to consider a sale of some or all of its assets, including the Times. Three bids were tendered last weekend for the company’s consideration, including one by Tribune’s largest shareholder, the Chandler family, which has said it would buy the company and then spin off the company’s broadcast division to shareholders. Another bid, from Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ronald Burkle would recapitalize of the company.

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