Tagged: Los Angeles Times Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Eric Ulken 3:11 pm on November 9, 2009
    Tags: , InfoCamp, Los Angeles Times, , Poynter Institute, Spiegel Online, TwitterTim.es   

    Posted here and there 

    The problem with writing for several outlets is that your stuff lacks a home on the Internet. But it’s nothing that a little aggregation can’t fix. In case you missed it, here’s some of what I’ve been writing in the last few months:

    • Today at De Nieuwe Reporter, the Dutch online journalism blog I write for, I posted a piece on InfoCamp, a terrific unconference I attended last month in Seattle. It’s about what online journalists can learn from information scientists. (And yes, it’s in English.)
    • I’ve been enjoying using TwitterTim.es, an aggregator that lets you build a personalized “newspaper” featuring the posts tweeted most frequently by people you follow. (Here’s mine.) Intrigued, I interviewed Maxim Grinev, the site’s tech lead, for Online Journalism Review.
    • I weighed in on the question of whether SEO practices make for dumb, boring headlines, also at OJR. (By the way, I’m working on an online course on writing headlines for the web for the Poynter Institute’s NewsU. If you have some instructive experiences to share, please let me know.)
    • Finally, I wrote about recently launched redesigns at Germany’s Spiegel Online, where I worked this summer, and my alma mater, the Los Angeles Times, also for De Nieuwe Reporter.

    Also, as I’m doing more writing and consulting in various places, I’ve updated my about page with the customary disclosures.

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  • Eric Ulken 6:37 pm on January 30, 2009
    Tags: Los Angeles Times   

    ‘Killing local news’? I doubt it 

    I rarely opine about the print side of the newspaper industry, because it’s not my area of expertise and I don’t usually read printed newspapers. But humor me:

    As part of its continued downsizing, the Los Angeles Times has announced that it’s getting rid of the standalone California section and folding local news into the front section. Reactions are predictably negative, with one Twitterer deducing that the Times is “killing local news.” I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dried. The Times has obviously done a poor job of explaining this move, but to me it is defensible.

    Combining all the paper’s general-interest news into a single section could be a good thing for several reasons:

    • A unified A section means the paper is finally putting local news where it belongs: front and center. Nothing is more important to the paper’s long-term success than local news, so relegating most California stories to an inside section always seemed a bit unfair to me.
    • Since there are already a lot of local stories in the A section, it makes sense to put the rest there too. Honestly, hardly anybody outside the newspaper industry understands why some local stories go in the A section and the rest appear in the local news section. It’s needlessly confusing.
    • People are going to have to get used to smaller newspapers; economic realities dictate it. So rather than print a bunch of anemic 4-page sections, why not do fewer, beefier ones and save some money in the process? (This of course presumes that the total number of pages doesn’t decrease substantially. I’ve seen no official word yet on how much news space is likely to be lost. If the local news hole shrinks as a result of this move, then I’ll retract this defense and join the chorus of outrage.)
    • One alternative that’s been mentioned, merging business and local news into a single section, doesn’t feel right to me because the two are thematically different. Local news is general; business is, well, specific. Meshing the two on a single section front could confuse readers. On the other hand, readers are already quite used to seeing local news merged with national and foreign on A1.
    • This solution, even if it puts some people off, feels more palatable journalistically than other alternatives, which might include even more editorial staff cuts or the closing of additional bureaus.

    It’s too bad this news comes at the same time as the announcement that 70 more Times journalists will walk out the door. That will hurt. Juggling pages is comparatively painless.

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  • Eric Ulken 4:19 pm on November 6, 2008
    Tags: , eBay Inc, Jack Klunder, Los Angeles Times   

    Who says newspapers are dead? 

    The scene at Second and Spring streets, downtown Los Angeles, 2 p.m. PST Nov. 6, 2008:

    For the second day since the election, the line of people seeking copies of Tuesday’s paper outside the Los Angeles Times building is around the corner. (Copies of the paper are also listed at a substantial premium on Ebay.)

    Jack Klunder, the paper’s president, told me the Times printed a “couple hundred thousand” more papers to satisfy the demand. It’s also selling plates of the paper’s front page for $10 a piece and lithographs for $5. The Times’ Reader’s Rep blog has details.

    (Update 11/9: Sandy Banks has a nice column, with an accompanying Sachi Cunningham video, on the phenomenon. When I walked by the Times yesterday the line was still out the door and some enterprising independent vendors had set up shop across the street selling Obama T-shirts and other merchandise.)

    Finally, for those who prefer the digital version, here’s a photo I took in the newsroom Tuesday night:

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  • Eric Ulken 11:38 pm on October 27, 2008
    Tags: layoffs, Los Angeles Times   

    Leaving the Times 

    I want to say something about what took place today at the Los Angeles Times, where I’ve worked for nearly 5 years. It’s a drama that repeats itself in newsrooms across the country and has already taken place more times than I care to count during my tenure at the Times. The familiarity of the event doesn’t make it any less sad.

    I refer, of course, to staff cuts. Buyouts, redundancies, layoffs, terminations, separations voluntary and involuntary — pick your term. However you put it, it sucks — both for the people who leave and those who stay. This time I’m in the former category. The decision to go was mine, and I made it months ago, but saying goodbye is still hard.

    Days like today obscure the fact that hundreds of talented, creative and dedicated journalists remain at the Times. They still put out one of the best news reports in the country, and they’re working hard to drag a sclerotic institution into the digital age. I am proud to be associated with them, and I wish them well.

    (My last day is next Friday, Nov. 7.  Details on my own plans TK.)

    Photo by Mister-E via Flickr.

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    • Rick Burnes 6:04 am on October 28, 2008

      Good luck! A tough decision to make, I know.

      Look forward to hearing what you do next.

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    • Gregg Hartling 7:06 am on October 28, 2008

      It’s not going to be the same without you, Eric. Thanks for all the help you’ve provided me and my team since we joined last year. And you better not be a stranger given that we live about a mile apart. Best wishes and good luck.

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  • Eric Ulken 10:41 pm on October 27, 2008
    Tags: Andrew Malcolm, blogs, Los Angeles Times, Luke Ford, Online News Association,   

    Backchannel on blogging 

    What happens when you put a bunch of bloggers in a room, feed them pizza and moderate a discussion on their craft? You end up with two real-time conversations: One in the physical room and the other in the Twitterverse.

    I know that’s no surprise to those who populate this corner of cyberspace, but as a newbie here — and, until recently, an admitted Twitter skeptic — I have to say it was pretty fun to watch a virtual dialogue unfold alongside the real-world one, as it did last Thursday night at the Los Angeles Times.

    The local ONA gathering on blogging (pix here) drew about 60 people to the Harry Chandler Auditorium for an informal talk with L.A. bloggers including Luke Ford (pictured) and the Times’ Andrew Malcolm. Tweets containing #onala were displayed in a search feed on the big screen, powered by a nifty skinnable Twitter client called Spaz. Instant visual backchannel!

    So yes: Twitter is good for something besides marriage proposals.

    Photo by David LaFontaine via Flickr.

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  • Eric Ulken 5:23 pm on September 4, 2008
    Tags: , , Fremont, Los Angeles Times   

    New at latimes.com: California Schools Guide 

    Our newest database project, launched today, is a guide to schools in California with test scores, demographics and other useful info on public schools in the state. (Private schools are listed too, but there’s less good info available on them.)

    Data guru Ben Welsh (of L.A.’s Top Dogs fame) is the brains behind this project, also built in Django (which, it’s safe to say, has become the framework of choice for our editorial data projects).

    I think my favorite part is the ability to rank schools in your county by different criteria, such as average SAT scores or API score (California’s benchmark for academic performance). Factoid: Of the 10 schools statewide with the highest API scores, eight are in the Bay Area and four of those are in Fremont. Is it something in the water up there?

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  • Eric Ulken 7:18 pm on August 17, 2008
    Tags: , Los Angeles Times   

    A visit to the pressroom 

    After four and a half years at the Los Angeles Times, I finally made the trek to the other side of downtown Friday to tour the paper’s Olympic printing facility. As part of the effort to merge the web and print staffs, the Times has been giving some of the websters a “Newspaper 101″ crash course. I tagged along for the tour, but my low-res BlackBerry photos just don’t do justice to the size and scope of the place.

    Anecdote: The machines that were bought to insert preprints (like the ones flying off the presses in the photo) ended up being too error-prone, so the distributors still have to stuff them into the paper by hand. Let’s see:

    Umpteen preprints x 1.1 million Sunday papers = a lot of hands

    I’m reminded of why newspapers are still largely a manufacturing and distribution business. And why this business model is falling apart.

    (For robotics geeks: Here’s Dakotta’s video of one of the robots moving a roll of paper. They follow electromagnetic guides embedded in the floor.)

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  • Eric Ulken 5:53 pm on August 2, 2008
    Tags: , , Los Angeles Times   

    New at latimes.com: L.A.’s Top Dogs 

    Last week we launched a fun new database at work: L.A.’s Top Dogs, which shows the most common dog names and breeds by ZIP code, based on dog registration data from L.A. County animal control agencies. My colleague, Ben Welsh, assembled the data and built the app in Django. I did the UI.

    Warning: It’s pretty addictive. For example, if you ever wanted to know how many dogs are named after your favorite superheroes, dictators and hip-hop stars, we can tell you.

    It’s already drawn some notice in the linkosphere:

    It’s taken some criticism from folks who seem to think it’s not serious journalism. To those people I say: You’re right. Lighten up. We do a lot of other serious journalism.

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  • Eric Ulken 4:46 pm on June 6, 2008
    Tags: , Los Angeles Times,   

    New at latimes.com: Electoral vote map 

    Now that the primary season is over and the general election campaign is heating up, it’s time to introduce a fun little electoral vote map built by my colleague, Sean Connelley. What’s unique about this one is that you can create your own scenario here and then grab some code to embed it in your website, like so:

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