Friday, August 07, 2015

Doug Smith is becoming senior Metro reporter while Ben Walsh will take over as data editor

To: The Staff
From: Megan Garvey, Deputy Managing Editor, and Shelby Grad, Assistant Managing Editor
Doug Smith, one of The Times’ most admired journalists, is hanging up his slide rule after a decade-plus as data editor and moving to a new assignment in Metro.
This would be would be cause for despair, but for one thing: Ben Welsh is succeeding him as head of the data team.
As a senior reporter in Metro, Doug will look for interesting yarns, characters, controversies and slices of life wherever they may be lurking. He will also pitch in on rewrite, and he will continue to team with colleagues on select data stories.
Doug is one of those rare journalists of whom it can be said that he’s done just about everything, and done it with distinction. He’s covered earthquakes, riots, wildfires, floods, the Iraq war, LAUSD scandals, motorcycle lane-splitting and much more. Major projects too numerous to name have been elevated by his involvement.
A career highlight of which he is especially (and justifiably) proud: His stories on unchecked development in the Santa Monica Mountains helped lead to the creation of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in 1978.
Over the course of his career, Doug worked in almost all the local LAT bureaus, including Glendale, Monrovia, Chatsworth, Van Nuys, Redondo Beach and West L.A. He made it to the downtown newsroom after doing rewrite on the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery, which won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting. Finally aboard the mother ship, he served as an education reporter, GA reporter and data reporter.
Doug’s work creating The Times’ data team was recently celebrated at the Editorial Awards, so we won’t repeat that history here -- except to say that he identified the importance of data journalism when few in the newsroom knew what it was, and that the team he created is one of the best in the business.
Ben has been at the center of our best data work since he first walked past the spinning globe more than seven years ago. He is the ultimate multi-hyphenate: programmer, digital trouble shooter, teacher, investigative reporter, innovator.
From investigative stories on the Fire Department’s 911 response times to digital innovations like Mapping L.A. and the schools guide, Ben’s influence is hard to miss. In addition to his work for The Times, he created the digital news archive PastPages and is co-founder of the California Civic Data Coalition, a team of developers dedicated to opening up public data. He’s active in NICAR and other digital journalism organizations and is a rock star at conferences and seminars.
Ben grew up in Iowa and holds a B.A. in journalism from DePaul University in Chicago and a master’s from the Missouri School of Journalism. He worked in television news in Chicago before joining the great Hawkeye State migration to Los Angeles.
As data editor, Ben will manage our team of data journalists, serve as a liaison with other editorial departments and work on strategic planning both for his department and the larger digital operation. He’ll also continue to report and write stories.
The change takes effect Sept. 10, which happens to be Doug’s 45th anniversary at The Times.
Please join us in congratulating two great colleagues.

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