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You win some, you lose some: LA Times receives $1m reporting grant as magazine closes

You win some, you lose some: LA Times receives $1m reporting grant as magazine closes

Financially speaking, this seems to have been a mixed week for the LA Times. On the one hand, Fishbowl LA reported on Tuesday that the LA Times Magazine, which has been running for almost three years in its current form, will shut down next month due to a tough market. On the other, the LA Times announced this Thursday that it has received $1m of funding from the Ford Foundation to strengthen its reporting of beats including immigration, minority communities and Brazil.

First to the bad news. Fishbowl LA quotes the editor of the LA Times Magazine, Nancie Clare, who attributes the closure to a lack of funds. “I think it’s fair to say there were revenue issues,” says Clare, “it’s still a tough economic climate, especially for print. I don’t think they got rid of us because they don’t like us.” Fishbowl LA writes that the monthly magazine’s seven staff will be laid off, and there’s “no indication” that jobs in other parts of the newsroom will be made available to them. “They’re contracting in the newsroom too. There’s nowhere to absorb us,” says Clare, quoted in the article.

However, in a separate article, Fishbowl LA writes that the Times is preparing to launch a new quarterly fashion publication, which is described in a company memo as “a new special quarterly product focused on luxury, design, fashion and style.” Fishbowl LA is sceptical about the editorial quality of the new product, noting that it, “sounds similar to the LA Times Mag‘s previous incarnation as a product of the business end of the paper. Bummer. Yet another blow for substance in our brave, new-media world.”

Yet despite Fishbowl LA’s doubts, Times’ coverage should be improving in other areas: The $1m grant from the Ford Foundation is intended to help the paper deepen its coverage of Brazil, the south-west US border, immigration and ethnic minorities in California, and the state prison system. According to the Times, the funding will be used to hire five new jounalists over two years to provide more “robust coverage” of these beats, which are currently covered by general news reporters, who also have other duties. The grant will allow the Times to send a reporter to Brazil and represents a change to its Latin America coverage, which currently relies on a network of stringers. “We will immediately start our search for reporters, ” says Times Editor, Davan Maharaj.

This grant is especially good news for the Times, which has suffered drastic newsroom contractions during the past four years and which saw its previous editor stand down last December amid the expectation of more cuts. In an attempt to boost revenue, the paper erected a metered paywall in March, and heavily incentivised its advertising-rich Sunday print edition. The big question now is whether these changes, along with grants like the one from the Ford Foundation, will be enough to prevent further closures.

Sources: LA Times, Fishbowl LA (1) (2), Editors Weblog, SFN Blog


Hannah Vinter


2012-05-18 15:14

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