“A Wonderful Profession”  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Features
From AJR,   August/September 2012

“A Wonderful Profession”   

Despite the tumultuous, sometimes traumatic change of recent years, Los Angeles Times Deputy Managing Editor Scott Kraft finds that journalism remains an “incredibly satisfying” endeavor. Tue., October 2, 2012.

By Amber Larkins
Amber Larkins (amberelarkins@gmail.com) is a graduate student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.     

Both writing and editing have their charms for Scott Kraft.

"There's really nothing better in this business than to be a writer, being a correspondent, especially," says Kraft, 57, who became deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times at the end of August. "Being an editor is very challenging as well, and I have influence over many more stories than as a writer."

"The most fun an editor can have is to work with talented reporters and editors," he adds. "There's many talented people here. It's so much fun to watch talented journalists do their thing."

Growing up in Oklahoma and Kansas, Kraft always knew he wanted to be in journalism. When he was in elementary school, he started a newspaper in his Ardmore, Oklahoma, neighborhood.

"Being a journalist, you have this wonderful excuse to ask people anything, to nose around, find stuff out," he says.

Scott Kraft (Photo Credit: Carolyn Cole/L.A. Times)

Kraft, who majored in journalism at Kansas State University, worked for the Associated Press for eight years before joining the L.A. Times in 1984.

Kraft was attracted to the paper because it was considered a writer's paper and because it had a large roster of foreign correspondents. Kraft wanted to be one of the latter. "I've always been a correspondent at heart," he says, "I was just enamored of foreign correspondents and their lifestyle. I thought it would be a wonderful way to discover the world."

Kraft is married to Betsy Kraft, a former journalist and playwright. They have a daughter and a son who were born while he was a foreign correspondent in South Africa. He says the most interesting story he covered was South African icon Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990.

"I was there the day Mandela was freed," he says, "The whole process of watching this country reborn was fascinating, and there's nothing like it."

Kraft had six bylines in the paper that day, three of them on page one, recalls Simon Li, who was foreign editor at the LA Times while Kraft was a correspondent. "It was a mastery of his beat and his subject," Li says. "It was unexcelled."

Kraft's decade abroad included postings in Nairobi, Johannesburg and Paris. Being a foreign correspondent presented interesting challenges because his readers couldn't see what he was reporting on and had never been to the places he was chronicling. He had the opportunity to be their eyes, which Kraft found satisfying.

"I think it's a wonderful profession," Kraft says, "The whole challenge of presenting that material in a compelling way to an audience is the best job going."

After a decade on the road, Kraft returned to home base in 1996 as the Times' deputy foreign editor. The following year, he became the paper's national editor. Marjorie Miller, now the Associated Press' Latin America bureau chief, worked with Kraft when she was running the L.A. Times foreign desk and he was national editor. Miller says Kraft taught her that no matter how irritated or angry you might be with a reporter, an editor always has to act like "a grown up."

"He's a patient, thoughtful editor and terrific colleague--a real team player," Miller says.

Kraft went back to reporting for a short time in 2008, but then became the Times' front-page editor in 2011.

As deputy managing editor, Kraft is responsible for page one but also oversees long-term projects and investigative stories. He also oversees Column One, a Times staple since 1968, in which the paper strives to have on page one each day an original narrative that can't be found anywhere else. "We save the most finished ones--the best-written ones-- for that slot," Kraft says. Kraft, himself has written more than 100 Column One stories during his tenure at the Times.

Page-one meetings at the paper used to be very traditional. Editors from different departments would describe what they had and lobby for front-page play. Now the meetings are much more focused on the paper's Web site, latimes.com.

"We all know that the news business is going through all sorts of radical change, and there's a huge amount of pressure, but when it comes to the actual journalism of what we're doing, it remains incredibly satisfying and very fun to do." Kraft says.

"At the L.A. Times, we don't have as many resources as we once had, but we still have a lot of great people doing great work. The audience for wonderful storytelling and investigative projects and really dramatic, colorful writing of news has never been bigger."



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