We know the LA Times has been laying off people left and right, but this is not what we expected when we heard about major changes afoot at the paper last week. Plus, it’s a major cut.
Variety: The Los Angeles Times is undergoing a major overhaul, downsizing as of March 2 into four main news sections and discontinuing the stand-alone California section. As a result, the Times will lay off another 300 staffers, including 70 in editorial.
The Times plans to fold the California local news coverage into its A-section, which will lead off inside with California-centric news, followed by national and international coverage and the opinion pages.
The change will free up room on the Times’ press runs to allow the profitable Calendar section to shift to a later deadline and incorporate more breaking news. At present the section has an early afternoon deadline.
Indeed, this news of the later deadline for the Calendar section was what first fuelled speculation about what would happen to the rest of the paper.
LA Observed (from a source): [T]he Times’ press capacity can only produce four sections in the live run [which prints the sections that get the later deadline]. Currently it has the main news section, California, Business and Sports. Obviously, the main news section and Sports have to be there. But it means that one of the other two either has to move into the earlier pre-print — where Calendar currently runs, and which would turn the section into frozen food, with pointlessly early deadlines — or dies as a separate entity….
We assumed the Business section would get the early afternoon deadline. After all, the financial industry is based on the East Coast, so it’s day is over by 2-3 p.m. Pacific time. But clearly, that’s not what happened.
Variety: Times’ brass said the Business section will revive the “Company Town” showbiz-centric feature in an effort to enhance the section. Obituaries and the weather page will run in the back of this section. The Sports section will absorb classified ads.
Speaking of the East Coast, though, the LA Times has long been considered the sixth major paper that Washington insiders read (after The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today) because of its solid political coverage, but it should be interesting to see how this increased focus on local news affects the paper’s standing among D.C. insiders and the media in general.
LA Observed has letters to the staff from Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein and editor Russ Stanton, and puts the cuts into perspective:
Stanton’s note says the 70 newsroom positions to be cut represents an 11% staffing bite, on top of the huge whacking that went on last year. If so, that means the new editorial staffing will be about 565 — less than half the strength at the peak under Tribune’s pre-Sam Zell ownership.
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