Wednesday, October 1, 2008


By George McQuade

West Coast Bureau Chief

The Los Angeles Times is not like an endangered polar bear stranded on an ice floe, it has some smart people who are making tough decisions to insure the long-term survival of the 120-year-old paper now owned by real estate baron Sam “The Grave Dancer” Zell.

That was the message Darrell Kunitomi, public affairs representative of the L.A. Times, had for O’Dwyer’s following a tour of the newsroom and a presentation at LAT headquarters.


Darrell Kunitomi, public affairs
representative of the L.A. Times

Change is the reality at the LAT. “The Media Group will get webbier, the newspaper will change sections, fold them, create new composites; retrain still photographers and reporters to become VJs and use video reports more and more; and the newspaper will continue to change its look,” said Kunitomi. “The graphics are changing as we speak, including the front page of the future. Don’t be shocked – it’s a new era of new ownership.”

He put the change mantra into context. “A great organization such as The Times should be one of those companies that will go on long after its original founders have passed from the scene, change its spots, adapt, and survive to prosper and grow.

“The movies survived the breakup of the studio system. The music business has dealt with synthesizers, vinyl to cds and now file sharing,” he said.

Here’s the best part for PR pros pitching the LA Times: “We still take hard information, images, commentary entertainment, food and sports and fun and put it to newsprint every 24 hours. It might be a traditional, retro way of informing society, but at The Times it is what we know and what we do best. We’re changing. We know we must to survive. And really, we know that,” said Kunitomi.

During the tour, this writer noticed several changes. Stacks of newspapers, media kits, dictionaries and books have been replaced by more computers, high tech gadgets, high tech monitors and electronic wizardry.

But really noticeable were fewer people, almost like visiting the newsroom on a weekend night with a skeleton staff onboard.

The group tour was sponsored by PRSA-LA, Southern California American Marketing Assn., Direct Marketing Assn. of Southern California and Women in Technology International (WITI) and held in one of the ‘great buildings of LA history.”

Four globalization considerations

John Longhlin, president of Targeted Media and senior VP marketing, told the audience how the LAT wrestled with globalization.

He said the LAT answered four questions:

  • Which countries should we support? In which order?
  • Which languages should we offer? Which should we do first?
  • How much content should we offer? How deep should we go?
  • Should we just market ourselves on the web? Or should we sell?

“If you want news, politics, sports, entertainment, we got something for you, so come and send some time with us,” said Longhlin.

The Tribune Direct/LA Times event was billed as helping PR Pros learn “what the LA Times is looking for today in news coverage and how it is dealing with current changes in print media.”

However, the closest we got to any editors or writers was the distant tour of the Los Angeles Times Newsroom, which was quiet, nearly empty and almost surreal compared to even two or three years ago.

For the newspaper business, it might just be the sign of the Times.

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