published Friday, October 18th, 2013

Los Angeles Times editor returns to UTC

UTC students Charnelle Box, left, and Edwina Calloway operate cameras as they record a newscast Thursday in the university's new TV production studio.
UTC students Charnelle Box, left, and Edwina Calloway operate cameras as they record a newscast Thursday in the university's new TV production studio.
Photo by John Rawlston.
  • photo
    Davan Haharaj, UTC graduate and editor of the Los Angeles Times, chats with attendees before giving a talk Thursday at the UTC University Center.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

As a student reporter, Davan Maharaj used to have issues with the fax machine.

But now, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate serves as editor to one of the world's journalism juggernauts -- The Los Angeles Times.

On Thursday, the bespectacled storyteller from UTC's class of 1989 returned to impart his nearly 25 years of industry wisdom to the university's department of communications as it opened a renovated television studio.

"If I had one of those Macs when I was a student, I'd be very rich now," he said of the technology gap between newsrooms from 1988 and 2013.

The native of Trinidad and Tobago, who received a $1,500 reporting scholarship from The Chattanooga Times as a young student reporter, has now spent nearly 25 years with the Los Angeles organization.

Maharaj and the L.A. Times are pioneers of digital media, balancing 14 foreign bureaus with 11 U.S. news centers to become the second-largest newspaper website in the United States. He says print journalism isn't dying, but rather, needs to embrace the habits newspaper readers are using more frequently.

"The form of the novel isn't always around," he said. "Readers' habits are changing, and people are working on tablets and phones. We need social media so more people can read our stories. It's that simple."

And once news agencies are able to engage readers on their platforms of choice, that's when the true storytelling can begin.

Maharaj and photographer Francine Orr won the 2005 Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing for their six-part series "Living on Pennies," which documented poverty in Africa. During his tenure the Times has documented abuse within the Boy Scouts of America, corruption in Los Angeles jails and an epidemic of prescription medication abuse.

"More than ever before, the media has the potential to come alive," he said. "Our mission is to speak the truth -- results will follow."

Kittrell Rushing, Maharaj's former professor and former associate dean of UTC's College of Arts and Sciences, recalled when the international news icon was a standout student in his communications law class.

"He just made things happen," Rushing said. "He has such creativity and imagination. It doesn't get much higher in the business unless you're Joseph Pulitzer -- but he wasn't a journalist."

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfree or 423-757-6592.

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