Friday, July 26, 2013


posted online by LA Times reporter Howard Blume |

From: Alexander Russo

Sent: Friday, July 26, 2013 9:06 AM

Subject: Goodbye & good luck to LA School Report

Friends and colleagues:

As you may already know, my stint building and running LA School Report ended earlier this month, just short of the site's first anniversary.

In December 2011, longtime Democratic political activist Jamie Alter Lynton called me wanting help getting a new local education site started. She had the energy and resources to help get something up and running. I had the know-how to make it happen.

Lynton initially wanted the site to be advocacy-based, providing readers with enough information to get them to do something (sign a petition, call a politician, appear at an event, donate to a campaign); however I was able to convince her that an independent news site covering all sides fairly would be more effective in the long run (and was necessary to attract quality writers). When it came time to launch the site last summer, Lynton asked me to take the reins.

My job included assigning and editing stories, coordinating coverage, writing some of my own pieces, and generally making sure the site was consistently smart and timely. Reporters (including most notably Hillel Aron and Samantha Oltman) handled the reporting and writing duties and endured my stubborn views and hamfisted editing. Lynton provided invaluable financial support, helpful news tidbits, and strong opinions.

Over all, I'm extremely proud of the results. Despite its small, part-time staff, LA School Report established itself as a go-to site for daily education news and commentary in Los Angeles. The site broke news, explored issues with greater depth and regularity than the mainstream outlets were able to do, frequently (and I think evenly) challenged one or the other "side" of the education debate, and occasionally made some news, too.

There were numerous challenges, to be sure -- the most persistent of which was establishing, maintaining, and defending the site's editorial integrity. I spent a lot of time insisting on transparency and balance, running interference between Lynton and others, and urging readers and colleagues to judge the site based on its coverage. Good thing I had a long track record writing about education (and wasn't financially dependent on the paycheck).

Things started getting better after the March school board primaries, and as the 2012-2013 school year ended I came to think that finding a news editor to handle the day-to-day story assignments and editing would – along with a second regular reporter -- be a good way to bolster the news-gathering operation and create time and space for me to write commentary and do fundraising and outreach and other things to help the site grow and improve.

Lynton embraced the idea at first but then decided she didn't want me to have any editorial/management role over the site going forward. Despite repeated negotiations and attempts at compromise, we parted ways over whether this was wise or appropriate. Former New York Times and Bloomberg journalist Michael Janofsky has been editing the site for the past two weeks.

Disappointed as I am, I remain proud to have helped make LA School Report as much of a success as it has been and I wish the journalists who are involved with the site good luck. I'll still be writing about LAUSD in magazines and online -- and I'll be watching closely to see if it remains the feisty, independent site that it's been up to this point.

Thanks again for all your help and support.


Co-founder, founding editor, LA School Report

No comments: