LAT editor Russ Stanton, who kind of resembles John Cleese (serious, click here) was asked by the OC Press Club in March to be the keynote speaker at this year’s gala. “It feels like 4 years ago since then.” Said Stanton to the sold out crowd of 80 or so industry professionals. Indeed, in the wake of letting go of 150 staffers he showed up to a press club event. You’d think it’d be awkward. You’d think he’d grovel just a bit. We’d hoped he denounce Sam Zell and shake his fists. Yeah, we were really hoping for some type of fist shaking (“Damn you dessert spoon!”).
Anyway, Stanton was very matter-of-fact about the state of newspapers and the shrinking of his staff. “We have more readers today than in any other time in history.” He stated. “We aren’t sure how to get people to pay for it but there’s clearly a demand for it.”
He said that in spite of all that has happened he is optimistic about working with a new publisher. He didn’t grumble about Zell as we had hoped. “New people who try and fix it all the time are all insiders. Sam can help us see things about our business that we haven’t been able to before.”
Stanton mentioned that one of the top 100 blogs in the world is a latimes.com blog. Top of the Ticket he said, is written by two of the oldest staffers at the Times, Don Frederick and Andrew Malcolm. And that the Times has had 3 different batches of blogs. Some of them worked and others didn’t and they are open to change them up again. He also mentioned that he admired some of the ‘under 30 staffers’ they have because they are media savvy. “You guys use media all the time. We didn’t have that kind of exposure growing up.”
That of course lead to a follow-up during the question and answer period. “How are the younger journalists different? What are we doing wrong and what are we doing right?” Asked an attendee.
We’d like to point out that the difference between the ‘younger’ generation and other generations is – the ‘younger’ generation was the only one there to publicly inquire what the guest speaker thought of them.
Stanton was the innovation editor at the LAT. ‘Innovation’ denotes looking to the future instead of dwelling on the past. The medium is evolving. Stanton is hopeful about its prospects. He was hopeful in a room of people afraid, worried and irritated by their prospects. Distracted by the next shoe that could drop at any moment, they listened politely as the final course was served.
After the dinner, we went up to Stanton to introduce ourselves. “I’m from Mediabistro’s FishbowlLA, ever heard of us?”
“I’ve heard of Mediabistro,” offered Stanton.