The Los Angeles Times: A Tour With Photography Classes

The Los Angeles Times headquarters stands in beautiful downtown L.A., unobtrusive in its 1930s décor using boldfaced arches chiseled with hard lines and intimidating, eye-catching upward movement. The building resembles much of the area it stands in, like Union Station, the old government buildings or something from an old Marvel comic.
On Thursday afternoon, Santa Monica College Professor Gerard Burkhart invited his photojournalism students to participate in a tour of the Times. Participating were student journalists and photographers taking Journalism 16, Producing the Campus Newspaper, and Journalism 17, Editing the Campus Paper, or Photography 14, crosslisted as Journalism 22.
"He is such an inspiration to all of us," said student Haleh Rassouli.
Burkhart,who also teaches the prerequisite class to Photography 14, crosslisted as Photo 13 and Journalism 21, said, "This is the third time taking my classes on the tour. I worked at the Valley edition of the Times for close to seven years as a contract freelancer. Going back is funny seeing the old guys because of the kind of raucous laughter we shared."
On the way to the Times you dodge over the 10 east / 101 north overpass and the graffiti with towering buildings behind them looks as if the area might of existed in Queens.
The address for the place said 1st St. but as Corsair photo editor Jonathan Derby said, the parking garage stood separate from the building -- one block away.
Six stories tall the garage stood, with those words written across the front in Times New Roman fonr, "The Los Angeles Times."
The name symbolizes a major force in world media, the biggest newspaper in the nation and for many of the photo students (not to mention journalists) their aspirations.
"What struck me the most was that there was so many people working there," said Mark Diment. "On each floor that we visited there were over 100 people and I never knew it required so many people to put together the L.A. Times."
Debbie Winder, the executive secretary and administrator for the Photography department, met with people as other students were still arriving.
Winder started the tour by showing the giant globe spinning on its axis that marked the main entranceway. Inside a timeline stretched across the far wall with important dates and landmark events for the Times, which was first published as the Los Angeles Daily Times in 1881.
After the history lesson the group went through the halls and up the elevators, looking at old, new and award-winning front pages hung on the walls throughout the building.
With such examples as when President John F. Kennedy was shot, or more recently the 82nd Annual Pulitzer Prize winner for breaking news reporting in 1998, when the Times covered the bank robbery and shoot-out with the police in North Hollywood, people constantly darted their eyes across the headlines from the past.
"Whatever you do, say you have a B.A. in writing, journalism, business -- all of our backgrounds bring something to the table," said Rick Loomis, staff photographer from the Times who recently covered the war in Iraq. "It's not just writing or photography, but everything, such as portfolio stuff, keeping up with technology and always wanting to improve yourself."
Loomis spoke at the end of the event to the photographers about what it's really like on the job. He told harrowing tales of how hard it is covering the war and proved himself a hero too as video captured helping to rescue a wounded soldier during a gun battle.
"They want you to talk to someone everyday when your there. When I first went to Afghanistan I didn't talk to people that much, but post-Danny Pearl [a photojournalist who was held hostage and killed], it has become a little more clear that they want you to keep in touch," said Loomis.
For Rassouli, this section was her favorite part of the tour. Others enjoyed seeing the pages for the Times in production and many were amazed that the Times included a kitchen for preparing food dishes that they photograph for the paper.
Students like Diment, said, "I liked when they showed us how the paper looked at 6 p.m. the previous evening and then how it looked completely different in the morning."