Opinion: Spring Street Project unveiled!

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We may not have written about the Spring Street Project here for a while, but that doesn’t mean revolution hasn’t been fomenting! The results of the FutureThink committee are in, and they are scathing. From the James Rainey article:

Los Angeles Times Editor James E. O'Shea unveiled a major initiative this morning designed to expand the audience and revenue generated by the newspaper’s website, saying the newspaper is in ‘a fight to recoup threatened revenue that finances our news gathering.’ O'Shea employed dire statistics on declining advertising to urge The Times’ roughly 940 journalists to throw off a ‘bunker mentality’ and to begin viewing as the paper’s primary vehicle for delivering news. [...] Among the impediments the [Spring Street] group cited or implied as stalling growth at · Lack of assertive leadership and adequate focus on the website, both inside The Times and at the paper’s parent, Tribune Co.· Understaffing. employs about 18 ‘talented and dedicated’ editorial employees, only a fraction of the 200 employees at the Washington Post’s website and the 50 employed by the New York Times’ site.· ‘Creaky’ technology that has made it impossible for to host live chats between readers and journalists and to let readers customize stock tables or weather reports.· Failure to integrate the newspaper’s large news staff into operations at the web, contributing to delays in posting breaking news.


What does this mean for you, the little people? Read more, after the jump.

The news article continues:

In mid-February, the paper plans to roll out a new Travel website that will focus on Southern California and allow users to book trips -- the sort of e-commerce that other newspaper sites rolled out years ago. A ‘Calendarlive’ site, an extension of the Times Thursday Calendar Weekend print edition, will be designed as a destination for personal entertainment choices such as restaurants, movies, theater, concerts and clubs. [...] The paper also plans to experiment with pilot projects on ‘hyper local’ coverage in a few, as yet unnamed, communities. Those pages would rely heavily on content such as community calendars, crime statistics, school test scores and neighborhood discussion groups, O'Shea said in an interview.

You can read Editor James O'Shea’s address to the staff here. Some excerpts:

[T]he newsroom can also be a cold, defensive, insular and conservative place, plagued by a bunker mentality that hides behind tradition and treats change as a threat. [...] One of Russ’s first assignments is to set up a training regimen for everyone in the newsroom to develop an expertise on the Internet and become savvy multi-media journalists. A whole new world in out there -- video, photo galleries, chat rooms, landing pages. And to disprove the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I am going to be one of his first students. This training is mandatory for everyone. Currently we have a newspaper staff and an staff. No more. From now on, there are no two staffs, there is just one. And we will function as one. [...] Just as a blog is not a God-given right to inflict ignorance on an unsuspecting public, there’s no journalistic birthright for print reporters to write an 80 inch story when 30 inches will do. [...] Sometime this fall, the Los Angeles Times, like every other major paper including the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and others, will adapt a 48-inch press web that will create a newspaper that will be slightly narrower than the one we currently publish. There is no stopping this conversion. The entire industry is moving that way. Even if we were not going to make any newsroom changes, the new press web width would probably require a redesign. This time, though, we are going to do a real redesign, one that questions and challenges every section of the newspaper, a redesign that relates individual sections to the newspaper as a whole.

If you’ve read this far, surely you have an opinion on all this. So why don’t you leave it in the comments?