LA Times Editor Russ Stanton Addresses OC Press Club
With apologies to Orange County Register sports genius Randy Youngman, notes, quotes and observations, from this night's Orange County Press Clubs shindig at the Island Hotel near Fashion Island:
*Event was sold out, which meant there were around 150 people in attendance. Men wore suits; women, dresses. Me? Khakis and Chucks. Where was Frank Mickadeit to outschlub me?
*Menu was amazingly delicious considering it was catered. Starting with a salad that didn't suck (heirloom pear tomatoes), continuing with a thick mac 'n' cheese, and concluding with a main course—most folks stuck with salmon, while Register theater critic Paul Hodgins and myself went with a delicious steak on top of mashed potatoes and a portabello mushroom. Only disappointment was the dessert—strawberries, cream, and a puff pastry of sorts.
*The event was sold out long mostly because of the keynote speaker: Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton. Most people thought he wouldn't show due to the massive layoffs he has had to institute this week, but the man showed up—however, he looked as a man missing something in his countenance.
What Stanton said after the jump!
*Orange County Business Journal editor Rick Reiff introduced Stanton, whom Rick quipped was now the "longest-tenured Tribune editor" around and was the "right guy at the right place at a real crappy time."
*Stanton—who worked for both the Register and the Times' OC edition back when both were huge—started by praising Orange County, saying it "was one of the best markets in the country for news" and noted it has two papers. "Dailies," he meant—ever the daily man, he forgot your favorite rag.
*Before becoming editor in February, Stanton served on a committee that was formulating a plan to confront the "significant" changes of the "crazy Internet era." The committee was readying to implement the strategy until Stanton received "marching orders to shrink." Now, "it's back to the drawing board."
*He wants to make the Times into the "first and foremost thought" for news in Southern California by dominating five platforms—print, radio, television, Internet and "mobile devices." Howzabout just hiring talented reporters? Works for the New Yorker.
*Weird Quote #1: "We're going to move into the same building one of these days." Referring to KTLA-TV Channel 5, which Tribune Media (the Times' official owner) also owns.
*Stanton says the Times has "more readers than ever" if you consider print and the Internet, but that they need to do a better job to "monetize and capture" those readers. Huh?
*They're going to hire an "editor of e-mail alerts."
*(This note might be out of chronological order 'cause I was writing on the evening's program). Times reporters need to "walk away from some things and figure out what our niche is in the universe." Right before this, Stanton said his wards need to be "comfortable with letting go of some things."
*One of the first things Stanton checks out on the Times' website: Most E-mailed stories.
*"Listen to what those mouse clicks are telling us." The Times' front-page meetings (apparently three of them a day) now start with a web report to see "what's moving."
*Amazingly, Stanton likes owner Sam "Go to Hell" Zell and his wacky minions—is even optimistic with them in charge! "They aren't from our business" and thus can "see something about our business that we can't see inside out." Stanton also said something about reporters not being able to see in the "mirror that we fogged too much." No word on what Stanton was drinking tonight.
*Predicts that "a major newspaper in San Francisco" will be amongst the first big dailies to stop publishing a print edition altogether.
*Weird Quote #2: "I'm not sure we're one of them anymore." Stanton, responding to someone who described the Times as a "big national paper."
*Doesn't think that the coming reduction of pages for his paper is "necessarily a bad thing." Made the argument that because the New York Times and Wall Street Journal publish less pages than the LA Times, that that's somehow okay.
*So much more lost to the ether because my note-taking is worse than cuneiform...
*Reception to Stanton was kind—he seems like an upstanding character, and everyone in the room was sympathetic to his situation. We'll end with the observation of one prominent OC journalist: "Thank God I don't have his job. I mean, if they offered it to me, I'd take it. But I get sad when I have to fire a little intern!"
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