At Shook Kelley, we speak and write often about the idea of convening. While we usually align ourselves with how ideas convene people in a place or space, its broader meaning is all the ways in which ideas bring people together. Whether it's online, in a park or at a food hall, it's about creating and fostering an engaged and connected community.
Recently, our local Los Angeles public radio station KPCC interviewed Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner about the future of the paper and its role in the community. Coincidentally, Beutner touched on the very idea of convening as part of the newspaper's future. "[Part] of our role at the Los Angeles Times as a civic conscience and that centerpiece for the community is to be a convener..." This was part of his response to why the paper hasn't turned its local institution—the LA Times Festival of Books—into a revenue source. The tension of a paper serving a dual civic and business purpose is arguably at the heart of the industry's struggles to stay financially afloat in today's digitally-driven and open-sharing world. But this sense of conscience is also how it participates in, engages with and remains part of the community.
"[Part] of our role at the Los Angeles Times as a civic conscience and that centerpiece for the community is to be a convener..."
Beutner goes on to elaborate that his future strategy for the paper seeks to expand and own all the media platforms available, to "[convene] communities around their individual interests and [deliver] information in all the ways they want to receive it: mobile, web, print, live events." Audiences are not captive any longer. They can and should be engaged in as many ways as possible. The value of convening is in strategically finding ways to create a lasting bond and engaging relationship that keeps audiences coming back for something more.
As fellow believers in finding ways to convene around meaning, it will be exciting to see how this continues to take shape and change the virtual public landscape of LA.
Read the excerpts or listen to audio of the full interview: Austin Beutner Sees Bright Future for LA Times