The clanging of the bell signaling the opening of the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, and a strong latte from G&B coffee, jolted me awake this morning. I am downtown to learn about how modern digital newsrooms are run, of course, but that can wait as I take in the modernized Grand Central market, which has added hip new spots such as Eggslut. The egg-happy eatery already had hungry diners chowing away at its counter as I passed through the market to Broadway Avenue. Then it was over to Spring Street and the Los Angeles Times headquarters.
Five other interns are starting this morning and I’m grouped with them as a “visiting fellow,” although my prime intern days were well before this crew was even born. They are all still in college.
We are greeted by Tracy Boucher of the Times and whisked upstairs. Right into the thick of things, it seems. It’s the morning budget meeting where top editorial staffers, led by editor Davan Maharaj, will assess the day’s stories and how to play them on the company’s many digital and print platforms.
We are introduced to the editors before the meeting starts. The interns are obviously going to be producing content this summer, but my role as a visiting fellow is more ambiguous. “Can we put him to work while he’s here?” Maharaj asks Boucher.
He’s joking but maybe not. The Times, like many newsrooms, could certainly use the help after years of staff downsizing. The need is even more critical during summer months when remaining staffers are apt to be vacationing.
And there’s certainly plenty of news to cover for the the Los Angeles Times.
Generating considerable buzz at the morning meeting was the just-released Vanity Fair cover story on Bruce Jenner’s transformation to a woman. Editors mapped out several responsive stories including one about local reaction from the transgender community.
The Times, like most digital companies, monitors its audience, and editors took note of which of their stories were generating digital noise. Two stories of note were the hard-hitting piece on Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk and another one about a Northern California woman donating an old Mac computer to a Silicon Valley recycling center that was actually a valuable piece of computer history worth close to $200,000
We toured the two main newsroom floors and lobby area, glimpsing two relics of a pre-digitial past, including the paper-based clip files in the library, on the left, and the bank of abandoned pay telephones booths in the entrance way.
You can tell the Times is firmly in the digital age though, with a converged newsroom with print, online and video productions in full swing, and teams of staffers devoted to areas such as interactive web graphics, social media engagement and data journalism. Looks like I’ll be in good hands this summer.