Ex-Times Scribe Dishes on OC Edition Demise, OC Weekly Rise

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Former Weekly contributor Dan Tsang looks back "at the good old days of the Los Angeles Times Orange County edition" with two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Reyes on the latest Subversity on KUCI. (You can listen here.)

Reyes, who took a buyout in September after 29 years of service to the Times, says it is doubtful but not impossible for his former colleagues to win more of journalism's top prizes. But obstacles include shrinking newsroom staffs and budgets. There were 1,100 total employees--reporters, pressmen, office workers, etc.--when Reyes first came to the Sunflower Avenue office in 1979. Since Tribune took ownership of the Times in 2000, the newsroom staff has been cut 10 percent every year, from more than 900 employees to about 550 now. Reyes recalls when there were 39 metro reporters in the Orange County office--that's not counting the sports, Calendar and photography staffers. Now he estimates there are 10 or less. 

Tsang smartly points out that the Times beat its retreat just as Orange County was becoming more populous and ethnically diverse, which one would think would benefit readership of a metro like the Times versus lilly-white suburbia's Orange County Register. But Reyes notes the Times was strongest on the OC's coast, while the Register always had a lock on inland communities. By the time South County exploded, the Times discovered the Register was already there, leaving no place for California's largest paper to go for growth, according to Reyes. He credits the Reg for being much smarter when it came to marketing.
The pair go on to discuss ethnic reporting, the Times' since-abandoned community pages,
the priceless and historical archives collecting dust on Sunflower, how the state-of-the-art printing press has saved that Santa Ana plant from being shuttered completely and the evolution of reporters from strictly writers to instant blogging/videographing/TV reporting bots.

At one point, Tsang asks Reyes about the Times OC's perception of OC Weekly, which arrived in 1995.

"We read it, I read it every Thursday," Reyes says. "In the beginning when it came out, they were viewed as another competitor. The edict at the LA Times was we could not cooperate with them and watch yourself because they had no journalistic credentials. And on the telephone they will quote you, even though they didn't notify you that this would be used for a story. That seemed to be the only issues I had with them. Then, all of a sudden, they became very good, and it is still alive, today."

Tsang points out how Gustavo Arellano is on a Times advisory board.

"Yeah, he writes an opinion from time to time," says Reyes. "It's odd. It's kind of like you stay liberal long enough, you become part of the estbalishment.

"Sellout," Tsang says with a laugh.

"I didn't say sellout," corrects Reyes.

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