Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Memo from David Houston

Dear Colleagues,

When I became editor of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journals 17 days ago, there were many challenges that had to be met immediately. As anyone who follows this business knows, 2008 has shaped up to be journalism's annus horribilis. The most pressing of our challenges was to make changes needed to continue to put out a high-quality newspaper in spite of cutbacks. Today, I am announcing staffing changes that I believe will go along way toward meeting that goal.

The first is that Alexia Garamfalvi has agreed to officially take over as editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. In that role, she will oversee the Daily Journal's Bay Area reporters and our Washington bureau.
Alexia has done a terrific job running the office since my departure. In fact, she has done a terrific job since she came to the paper as an associate editor 11 months ago. Those who have worked closely with her will attest to the fact that Alexia brought our law firm business coverage to a much deeper level. And her influence has extended well beyond lateral moves and profits per partner. Alexia has guided our Washington reporters in some outstanding coverage over the past several months.

Alexia graduated from McGill and UVA law school and worked as a corporate lawyer in New York for several years before going to the Medill journalism school. She was an editor and reporter at a publication focused on U.S. trade policy and at Legal Times before moving to San Francisco and the Daily Journal.

We are moving forward quickly in our search for a new associate editor in San Francisco. In the meantime,
Laura Ernde remains on hiatus from the California Supreme Court beat, filling in on that post.

In Los Angeles, associate editor Alan Mittelstaedt has decided to leave to dedicate his time to USC journalism school, where he is an adjunct professor. We owe Alan a great debt for getting our new blog, the DJ Blawter, off the ground. Please join me in wishing him well in his new endeavor.
We are moving quickly to find a new associate editor.

In these lean times, it is important for us to take stock of what we do each day. We can do some things exceptionally well but we no longer have the resources to do many things well. Therefore, I have decided to eliminate the following beats in Los Angeles: pro bono; general litigation and city politics/land use. This does not mean layoffs. Our pro bono reporter left the paper several months ago and our city reporter left last month.

Noah Barron, who has held the general litigation beat, will take over our entertainment law beat that has been open for a few months. Noah has distinguished himself as a reporter with boundless energy, someone willing to take on any task.

Greg Katz, who somehow made ADR one of the most prolific beats at the paper, is taking over as the criminal justice reporter. In that role, he will cover issues of importance to criminal lawyers throughout the state.

That's the news for now. Stay tuned.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Email from Joshua Stecker

Hi everyone,

Well, the cat's out of the bag.

Yes, the Press-Telegram has quietly ceased publication of San Pedro Magazine, and in turn, I have been laid off.

Getting laid off is never fun or easy, but what's worse than me losing my job is watching the two newspapers that serve San Pedro officially abandoning our area. First it was MORE, now San Pedro Magazine.

Well, I wasn't going to sit idly by and let my hometown lose a magazine that was hugely popular, profitable, well-respected and incredibly fun to produce.

So, in good ole' San Pedro do-it-yourself fashion, I'm launching San Pedro Today, a new independently owned and operated monthly magazine serving my hometown of San Pedro.

Premiering the week of January 5, 2009, San Pedro Today will have the same great 30,000 copy circulation (still the largest circulated publication in San Pedro), free home delivery to homes and condos, the beautiful glossy cover and include all the great columnists and contributors who helped make the former publication the success it was. I’m taking the best parts of what made San Pedro Magazine great and enhancing it with all the features I wanted to do but could never get done working for my former corporation.

Now that I independently own and operate San Pedro Today, I can finally give San Pedro the type of quality publication it has always deserved.

And talk about launching with a BANG! Our first issue will be a special commemorative issue featuring the San Pedro High School Football team celebrating their L.A. City Section (co-) Championship!

This premiere issue will feature a cover and story celebrating the exciting and historic 21-21 tie championship game between San Pedro and Narbonne High School. (I was there, it was an incredible game!) It will also include a multiple-page photo spread chronicling the entire game, including photos of fans in the stands and candid on and off-the-field celebrations.

It will definitely be a highly sought after publication when it hits the streets. I'm excited to launch the new magazine leading with such an awesome hometown event.

In addition to our regular content, we're also accepting "SPHS Football Pride" ads if anyone is interested in adding a personal ad congratulating our SPHS Pirates to our premiere issue. All the information is at

On a personal note, I want to be very clear that my parting from the Press-Telegram was an amicable one. The situation that unfolded this past week was due to the incredible hardships facing the newspaper industry as a whole. I do not envy those in charge at the Press-Telegram, they have a huge mountain to climb and have to deal with a huge corporation that has completely lost focus of what it means to produce a quality local newspaper for the community. It’s sad, really. Newspapers are dying, but magazines are alive and kicking.

To all our current (and future) advertisers, thanks for shifting your support to San Pedro Today. The transition will be painless. My former advertising representative from San Pedro Magazine, Patricia Roberts, has joined me on San Pedro Today and will be assisting you in the turnover process.

I’m also pleased to announce we’re LOWERING ADVERTISING RATES across the board for the new publication. Since we do not have to go through the corporate bureaucracy to get things done, our working experience should be much more fun and easy. We’re here to help you succeed.

Lastly, those who have worked with me and have known me through the former magazine know how much I love my hometown. I’m a fourth generation San Pedran and proud of it. When I got the news about the abrupt cancellation of San Pedro Magazine, without being able to produce one final issue to let everyone know, well... I wasn't going to let that happen. So, San Pedro Today was born.

I hope you join me on what will be one incredible adventure!


P.S. Make sure when you visit that you subscribe to our email newsletter on the top right-side column. This way you won't miss out on all the new content we'll be producing. :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Statement from Superintendent David L. Brewer

·         I’ve scheduled this press availability to set the record straight about the accomplishments of the wonderful students, employees, and parents under my leadership over the past two years.
·         Two years ago, I took the helm of the Los Angeles Unified School District with vision and optimism. You see, I firmly believe that every child can learn. Every child can succeed. Every child can do great things.  I know the power of education.  My grandparents, the grandchildren of slaves, graduated from college.  I know the power of opportunity.  As an admiral in the Navy, I saw thousands of sailors, including high school dropouts; earn college degrees while in the service and master skills that would lead to prosperous and productive futures.
·         As a leader, I came to the Los Angeles Unified School District, with many goals, chief among them - results. I walked through this door with my eyes wide open. I did so with the belief that, together, we could take this District from good to great. We have many good schools. I wanted to support them so they could become great schools.  I wanted to help our students read, write, think and speak their way into great futures.
·         As an experienced warrior, I came ready to fight the battles on behalf of all of our LAUSD students. When I think of this current battle, I think of the students who have no one to fight for them. I challenge every adult in this District and every adult in Los Angeles, to fight on behalf of our students. Fight for their right to a world-class education. Fight for a future that includes college and a career. Their success is the only thing worth fighting for.  What our students need—not what adults want—must be LAUSD’s guiding priority.
·         To the people of Los Angeles, demand that political and adult agendas take a back seat to student agendas. The winners—today, tomorrow and every day--must be our students. The most important question we must answer is how to build on their most recent successes.
·         I knew the students of the Los Angeles School District could do better, and they proved that on the 2008 Academic Performance Index.
·         LAUSD students had the highest academic gains of any other major school district in the state last year. Elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools had record gains - and not just by a point or two, but by double digits.
·         All of our ethnic groups, with one exception, exceeded the academic gains of their state counterparts.
·         I am especially proud of one our high schools.  For years, Jefferson High School had languished at the bottom in academic achievement.  In 2008, thanks to great leadership and teachers, their scores soared and went up 59 points.
·         There is much more good news at the high school level.  LAUSD has the largest class of 12th graders – 34,768 students – since 1979. That means more high school students are staying in school. More high school students are passing the high school exit exams. More high school students are graduating and going to college.
·         I am proud of these accomplishments, and so much more.
·         Our students also deserve world-class campuses.
·         In that regard, last month, thanks to the voters’ overwhelming confidence in LAUSD, we passed Measure Q - $7B - the largest school bond measure in the history of the nation, with nearly a 69% margin of voter approval.  Because of that $7 billion investment, soon more of our students will study in traditional classrooms, not portables crowding on playgrounds.  Soon, more of our students will attend schools that have state-of-the art computer centers, chemistry labs and modern cafeterias.
·         To increase the safety of our students and decrease gang violence, we opened the first-ever Boys & Girls Club on one of our campuses at Markham Middle School.  We will open a YMCA on the campus of University High School in the near future.
·         I would like to thank all who have contributed to these successes.  All of the students, all of the parents, all of the teachers, all of the principals, librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers—everyone who works for the Los Angeles Unified School District and every one who supports our students.
·         The current debate about my leadership and the performance of the district has been contentious.   It has been demoralizing and debilitating, not only to our valued employees, but has spilled over into the community.  As an African-American, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination.  When I joined the Navy as an officer over 37 years ago, there were only 250 African-American officers out of 72,000.   I know what it looks like, smells like, and the consequences.  Although this debate is disconcerting and troubling, it must not become an ethnic issue.  When adults fight, it can manifest itself in our children.  This must not become an ethnic or racial battle that infests our schools, our campuses, our playgrounds.  This is not about settling an old score; this must be about what is best for every LAUSD student.
·         Therefore, I have decided to do what I think is in the best interest of the children, to put all of our students first.  Although my two years of service as superintendent contain an undeniable record of significant accomplishments, I am asking the Los Angeles School Board to shield our students from this contentious debate and honor the buy-out provisions of my contract.
·         Regardless of the Board’s decision, I will continue to work for the children of LA and this nation.
·         There’s still so much work to be done.  We’re facing the worst budget crisis in since 1929; we must continue to have leadership in Sacramento.  I have been leading this fight for the past year.   This fight must continue.
* Gang violence persists.  Too many of our young boys are dying or being maimed in the streets of LA. That’s why I’ve launched a Single Gender Academy initiative, with an emphasis on boys.  Last month, I went to New York and visited two boys’ academies and one girls’ academy to benchmark and replicate in this District.   Jordan High School, King-Drew Magnet School, Audubon Middle School and Tom Bradley Elementary School have very promising single gender pilot programs.  We must continue this work to save our boys.
* One of my guiding principles in Life’s Little Instruction Book.. Let me quote: “Never deprive someone of hope, because that may be all that they have.”  Let me give you an example. Harris Rosen, CEO of Rosen Hotels, is providing hope in Tangelo Park in Orlando, Florida, where he has established a Pre-kindergarten to College program for the poorest children in that city.  He invests $1 million per year to provide educational and other services to these children and their families.  He guarantees a college education to any Tangelo Park student who is accepted to college.  Many of  the District’s children are living in similar neighborhoods with no hope.  That’s why I have solicited the support of various community leaders to work with me in bringing the Tangelo Park program to the District.  This work must continue.
* We have the best students in the nation. One of the best and most rigorous academic programs in the world is the International Baccalaureate program.  When I took the helm at LAUSD, there were 82 of these programs in California and zero in LAUSD.  We now have nine programs, but we need to do more.   LAUSD students deserve  Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in our secondary schools.   
* My passion and commitment have not and will not diminish.
* I am proud and grateful that the Los Angeles Unified School District is better than I found it.  As a third-generation college graduate who has benefited from his education, I want the same for all the students of this district. I’m reminded of my favorite hymn: “If can help somebody as I pass along, If I can show somebody that he’s traveling wrong, if I can cheer somebody with  a word or song, then my living is not in vain.”  Live for our children.