Starting on Monday, The Los Angeles Times will be throwing itself into the already crowded online Hollywood news and rumor business with a revamped version of its Company Town blog. Former Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Flint (who most recently was director of industry programs at the Paley Center’s Media Council) will be joining the paper to anchor a more aggressive version of the 6-month-old blog.
According to Times Assistant Managing Editor Sallie Hofmeister, the new version of the blog will feature five or six posts a day and offer breaking news. “It’s not just gonna be press release stuff,” Ms. Hofmeister told The Observer. “It’ll be original stuff we dig out.”
Once or twice a week, short bits from the blog will make their way into print edition of The Times under a ‘Company Town’ slug. (Ms. Hofmeister said the name is actually trademarked by The Los Angeles Times and was used as a banner for stories a decade ago.) The print version will run in the paper’s Business section where Ms. Hofmeister works with a combination of reporters from entertainment, business, and the Web whose beats all converge around Hollywood. This consolidation, which she was tapped to oversee about a month ago, is reminiscent of changes to The New York Times‘ Media desk which The Observer‘s John Koblin wrote about in September 2008.
What will make the new Company Town different from other Times entertainment blogs—in June 2008, we wrote about one from columnist Patrick Goldstein—is that Mr. Flint and his contributors will wrestle more with rumors, something increasingly prominent Hollywood news sites like Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily and Sharon Waxman’s The Wrap (not mention trades like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter) do on a daily basis but which The Los Angeles Times has thus far resisted.
“Our standards for the paper are, we like to have three sources on any bit of speculation,” Ms. Hofmeister said. “We like to have confirmation. I think that’s kind of held us hostage in the online competition because we feel compelled not to mislead our readers.”
Company Town will cover what Ms. Hofmeister called “persistent rumors” but label them as such. And if online stories prove difficult to corroborate, they will not make it into the print edition.
Ms. Hofmeister conceded that “It’s a kind of a crazy news cycle when you cover the industry. There are constant tips and rumors and trying to beat the competition, we just weren’t able to feed the blog on a constant basis.” With the addition of Mr. Flint and a gradual rollout of a blog redesign timed for early June, she hopes Company Town will offer a “reliable voice” for industry coverage seven days a week—though less “vigorously” on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re not promising to be 24/7,” she said. “We’re not crazy.”