LAT Memo: Sure We’re Having Layoffs and Drops in Revenue – But You Guys Are Doing an Awesome and Important Job

This is from David Lauter. We’ll just publish it in full:

From: Lauter, David
Sent: Fri Feb 20 14:33:18 2009
Subject: Some thoughts for the end of the week

Greetings Metro colleagues:

I know it’s been a tense week for everyone. So here are a few thoughts for your Friday afternoon:

As the economics of our business continue to struggle, its easy to confuse a drop in revenue with a drop in the public hunger for what we do. The evidence points in the other direction: Yes, all of us in the news business have a serious problem with the business model that has sustained us for years. But that’s a business problem, not a journalism one.

When important news happens, the public continues to turn to us — often even more than in the past because the number of sources for original reporting is so much smaller than it once was. That’s particularly true here in Metro. I’ll focus on just two of the many good things that you and your colleagues can be proud of producing this week.

First, the budget coverage out of Sacramento, which drew many comments from readers, including this one:

Your coverage of the Sacramento saga has been marvelous and is deeply appreciated by this California citizen. Trying to understand what the hell was going on by watching the breathless tv news, or reading the [local paper] was hopeless. So, the stories by you and your colleagues have become part of my morning routine.

That person is hardly alone. In addition to our print readership, our state and local coverage drew more than 800,000 page views on the web for three days in a row this week. The total already this week has been about 3.5 million. So far this month, our traffic on local and state stories is running about 40% ahead of February of last year. The largest single share of this week’s traffic went to the budget coverage — round-the-clock stories from our Sacramento bureau and some great photos by Wally Skalij. Keep that in mind next time someone offers up the false and outdated idea that the web audience has no interest in serious journalism. In addition to a lot of individual page views, we are also drawing a steadily increasing number of unique visitors, both from around the country and here in our home area.

The other subject which drew a large amount of traffic starting yesterday has been our Mapping LA project. Some folks might not have expected that in the first 24 hours, more than 100,000 page views would go to a bunch of maps. But beyond the volume, what’s particularly gratifying in that traffic is the more than 800 comments — many of them thoughtful and detailed — that we’ve gotten about the city and its neighborhoods. Each of those comments took time, and what they show is that when we put out a subject for discussion, we can engage our educated, interested audience and get them not only talking about us, but using our forum as a way to talk with each other. That’s a big element of how a news organization can serve its community, and the fact that people have responded in such numbers is terrific.

Best wishes for the weekend,