Extension 70733 at the Los Angeles Times doesn’t ring any of the phones at the paper, but it’s possible a reporter will answer the call.
The little-known extension actually leads to a red phone on the wall of a nearby watering hole, the Redwood Bar & Grill. The bar was once such a popular hangout for Times staffers that the paper had a phone installed there so editors could find reporters after hours. The downtown L.A. landmark closed its doors in 2005 but reopened last year, and the Times phone has been reinstalled.
“L.A. Times, Redwood Bureau, AA branch,” Times columnist Patt Morrison said, answering the infamous red phone during its re-inauguration in March.
A crowd of more than 150 journalists gathered around the phone and cheered as Morrison performed the official ribbon cutting.
“This phone has been an institution listed in the L.A. Times directory for more than 40 years,” Morrison said. “This phone could not pass a Breathalyzer.”
The re-inauguration was part of the festivities at a huge mixer hosted March 29. Those in attendance represented members of the SPJ L.A. Pro chapter and other journalism groups from the area, including the California Chicano News Media Association, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Black Journalists Association of Southern California, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, The L.A. Press Club, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Radio and Television News Association, and the Associated Press Television and Radio Association.
This may have been the first time so many journalism organizations have come together to host an event in Los Angeles. It was a great way to bring reporters in this geographically separated city together and let them know about the various journalism groups.
Representatives from the participating organizations had an opportunity to tell the crowd about their respective groups. Membership applications and fliers were put out at tables around the bar. It was a great promotional opportunity for all of the groups involved and it didn’t cost much.
The mixer also gave leaders of the various journalism groups an opportunity to meet face-to-face and talk about working together on future events. There’s now talk of forming a Southern California Journalism Council. With the long commute times in Los Angeles, it can be tough to get reporters to come out to events, so it’s essential that journalism groups in town work together to promote each others’ events.
Tips for throwing a mixer
1. Identify one contact with each of the journalism groups in your area. It can be time-consuming, but once you have the contact information, you can create an e-mail list and easily send out messages to each group.
2. Find a bar in a central location with free or low-cost parking in the area. If you can, pick a spot with a backroom where everyone can gather. If you pick an off night for the mixer, say a Tuesday or Wednesday evening, the bar is more likely to let you use the room free of charge.
3. Reporters like free food, so pay for the appetizers and let them buy their own drinks. If you put on the mixer during happy hour, the drinks will be cheap. Let people know that!
4. Even if the event is free, ask guests to make reservations. This may make them less likely to skip out at the last minute.
5. Use your chapter e-mail account for reservations. It creates a record of who’s coming and provides new e-mail addresses for your chapter’s contact list.
6. Have guests sign in (with an e-mail address) when they arrive. Anytime you get a new e-mail address, put it on your organization’s e-mail list. This is a free and easy way to get the word out about chapter events.