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Start the Presses: Looking back after five years

March 22, 2014|By Dan Evans, dan.evans@latimes.com

One day in late March 2009 I sat with my wife, Donna, at Club Tee Gee in Atwater Village, having a quiet drink. It was a Tuesday afternoon, my birthday, and the waning days of a fortunately brief spat of unemployment for the two of us.

April 1 (truly!) marked my first day in the editor's chair of Times Community News. The little chain at the time claimed four newspapers: the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Crescenta Valley Sun. It also had an essentially unusable website, no social media, and a print design stuck in 1982.

As I come up to my five-year anniversary, I thought it interesting to pop down memory lane for some of the changes, some for the better and some less so, that happened during that time period.

The first big thing that happened, and one that did not exactly endear me to residents in the northern reaches of our coverage area, was the closure of the Crescenta Valley Sun in July 2009.

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I don't know if I've been so explicit about this before, so let me do it now: That was a mistake. The Crescenta Valley is markedly different, and logically needed its own dedicated coverage. We launched a Crescenta Valley zone of the News-Press last month in part to correct this error, a move that has shown us dividends in short order.

I'm hopeful that we can zone more editions, ones that feature people and news from specific neighborhoods — your neighborhood — and in doing so make people feel more connected. Though we all live in a city, we are far more connected to the people and things happening within a few miles of our front door.

That knowledge, obvious in hindsight, was hard won, made via more failures than successes. However, as it has been said, the only failure is not learning from your mistakes, and I'm a pretty decent student.

Despite the early missteps, I am proud of pulling the papers into the present day. The redesign of the papers and websites — moves that won more than two dozen awards — in late 2009 and mid-2010, respectively, boosted circulation and put web traffic through the roof.

The News-Press and Leader websites now reach more than 225,000 and 100,000 readers, respectively, each month with nearly a million page views between them. You'll note this approximates the populations of those cities, so I really don't expect them to bump up too much more. (Web stats, by the way, are notoriously squishy, but these come via Omniture, considered the gold-standard in this arena.)

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