404 by L.A. Times is here and extremely online
The following announcement was sent on behalf of Assistant Managing Editor for Audience Samantha Melbourneweaver:
I’m proud to announce the formation of a brand new team within Audience Engagement: 404 by L.A. Times.
Formerly known as “the meme team,” 404 is a team of creators, artists, filmmakers, writers and makers of all kinds (including a puppeteer) and is the first-of-its-kind collective in any major U.S. newsroom. With the goal of meeting new audiences where they are, 404 is ushering in a new era of audience engagement at The Times and rewriting the rulebook for how a “paper” exists online. Its core mission is central to that of the broader organization: to reflect the shared experiences of Angelenos and those who care for L.A. the way we do. The team members are meeting that goal by creating things like puppet-hosted TikTok shows, short-form documentaries, Instagram-first features on L.A.’s thriving creative community … and yes, even memes. They’ll also work hand in hand with the culture makers in the city to amplify, highlight and share L.A.’s vast and varied stories.
The 404 is an innovation team at its core and is tasked with continually inventing new types of experimental content. That means we expect to fail and to be surprised by what succeeds. We will plan to approach every launch, every meme, every TikTok hoping to learn. It also means that the team’s work may not always align with the themes and coverage areas of the broader L.A. Times — and that’s good!
“I am thrilled by the creation of the 404 and applaud the adventurous spirit of this squad,” Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida said. “We must continue to be imaginative and daring as we try to reach new audiences and actively experimental in how we tell stories and where we tell them. Let’s go!”
The group plans to collaborate with staff and sections from across the newsroom, welcoming partnership ideas from all. But, unlike the Audience Engagement team, which creates and translates Times journalism for online platforms, the 404 won’t make content as a way to amplify other Times work.
In fact, you won’t often find work by the 404 on latimes.com. Their content will be akin to what lives on an LAT finsta; think of 404 as our official burner account. Like the audiences it hopes to connect with, the team exists in the furthest corners of the internet. Their formation is vital for the future of The Times, but their work might come across as a glitch, a hack, a page you landed on by mistake. It will truly stand apart — while still standing for — The Times. Ultimately, the team will help guide the newsroom in how to better serve young, diverse audiences who might not otherwise interact with The Times. The members of the group, all but one of whom started in April, are emblematic of the audiences they hope to connect with. They’re extremely online and have a diversity of backgrounds, skill sets and perspectives we hope new followers will connect with. Whether they’ve lived here their whole lives or moved here as adults, they all share a deep reverence for L.A.
Angie Jaime has joined The Times as its first head of creator content. Working as team leader, Jaime has guided the team in establishing a creative vision and audience goals for 404. She’ll continue to lead the group as it creates content, launches new franchises and establishes a community among artists, creators and thinkers in Los Angeles. Jaime has served as senior social editor at Vice and at Vice’s gender and identity vertical, Broadly. She was a creative strategist for Snap and Mashable and has bylines at Teen Vogue, Bustle, i-D, Bitch magazine and more. Jaime has a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism from Northwestern University (Medill hive rise!). Originally from Chicago, she lives in L.A. with her fiance, Jason, and their dog, Kogi. Catch her at Venice Beach on a Friday night, watching the skaters do their thing as the sun sets, or at a Bikini Kill show at the Greek.
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Marina Watanabe is a creator and community manager for the 404. Watanabe takes the lead when it comes to posting on the team channels and interacting with readers. She’s the ultimate keeper of the voice of 404 and the direct, daily connection to our community. Watanabe comes most recently from Bitch Media, where she was senior social media editor and launched its first video series, Feminist-ish, which examined the tropes in media that we love to hate. She has also worked as a social media manager at Everyday Feminism and hosted a weekly YouTube series called “Feminist Fridays.” Her work has been featured in Bustle, Mashable, UpWorthy, Refinery 29 and Elle magazine. Watanabe has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from Cal State Sacramento. A Sacramento native, she lives in Koreatown with her partner, David, (whom she met via YouTube!) and her cat, Stewart. Catch her at any and all screenings of “Twilight” and “Lady Bird.”
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Tom Carroll brings his deep love for Los Angeles and his flair for short documentaries to the 404 team. The namesake of the long-running YouTube series he created, “Tom Explores L.A.,” he has also been a sign painter (for Trader Joe’s), a podcaster, radio host, teacher and tour guide at the L.A. County Museum of Art and California State Parks. Carroll has a bachelor’s degree in art from Occidental College and a master’s in journalism from USC. He lives in Highland Park with his fiancee, Nikki.
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Safi Nazzal is a filmmaker who heads up the 404’s experimental puppet content strategy. Yes, Nazzal is a puppeteer. He’s trained at Bob Baker Marionette Theater and the Jim Henson Co. and says his dream is to one day have a daily news show entirely presented by puppets — so be sure to follow @latimes on TikTok. Nazzal has a bachelor’s in film from Chapman University. Originally from San Jose, he has also lived in Jordan. He now lives in South L.A. with his growing collection of puppet sets and his puppet, a sheep named Judeh.
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Jessica Rosales is a creator and host for 404 by L.A. Times. A sports reporting, video hosting and production whiz, you might recognize her if you’ve been to a Dodger game in the last few years — she’s an onfield host. Rosales has done a combination of reporting, hosting, producing and social media for sports sites and radio shows including Yahoo Sports, HBO, Golden Boy Promotions, Fox Sports and the Dodgers. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Cal State Northridge. A San Fernando Valley native, Rosales lives in Northridge with her cat, Magic. She enjoys catching a ballgame or a boxing match or reading the latest S.G. Browne book in her free time.
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Micah Fluellen, hired as a features art director in October 2020, has joined the 404 by L.A. Times team as a creator and vibe curator. Fluellen has defined the visual language of the 404, having created design guidelines and our logos. In his new role, he will continue to create memes and illustrations and to collaborate with artists and makers across L.A. Fluellen joined The Times as an intern in June 2020 and was hired as an art director for features that year. He has created illustrations and animations for content across the newsroom and has contributed art and memes for @latimesplants. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, he has a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, where he studied multimedia design and specialized in journalism.
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