Today, columnist Steve Lopez is graciously sharing his space so I can give you a year-end report on what The Times has accomplished these last 12 months and where we're heading. Please look for Steve's column in this space on Monday.
This year, our newsroom has given you, our readers, some of the best journalism anywhere in the world, with an emphasis on holding major institutions in our communities accountable to the public and providing news and information that help you navigate your lives.
One example is our investigation into allegations of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of public funds in the city of Bell. We're proud of the job our journalists have done uncovering apparent misconduct there and in other cities. In the year to come, we'll continue to press officials to provide public accounts of how they spend taxpayer money and provide tools that will help you, as citizens, keep watch over your elected officials.
Our schools are a top priority. This year, we unveiled a groundbreaking project that sought to determine the effectiveness of thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers in raising students' test scores. Drawing on data the district had largely ignored, our "Grading the Teachers" project fueled an intense national debate over how teachers should be evaluated and whether the results should be made public. In the year to come, we plan to deepen and expand that project because that's what our children deserve.
Another group of children also deserve our attention: those in the child welfare system. The Times exposed flaws in the system in L.A. County, where too many children under public care continue to die.
Farther from home, we remain one of only a handful of news organizations in the world committed to producing unique stories on national and foreign news. In addition to our Washington bureau, our staff of dedicated foreign correspondents regularly covers stories that affect your lives: the Middle East, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, deadly drug violence in Mexico, the rise of China and India, the economic crisis in Europe, portraits of life in Africa and the tensions between North and South Korea.
You all know that the news business is going through a transition between traditional print and digital means of informing you. We're working hard to lead the way in all formats. Our LATExtra section provides the only late-breaking print report in Southern California, allowing us to give you the fullest reports on stories both here at home and around the world. At the same time, we've expanded our multimedia offerings with the very latest news as well as specialty blogs and data projects that give you information never before available on subjects such as crime in your neighborhood. L.A. Now is the best and fastest-growing location for breaking news involving California anywhere on the Web. If you haven't already got it bookmarked, check us out at http://www.latimes.com/lanow.
We've also added reporters and editors in key areas. Because the arts and entertainment are signature industries for L.A., we've hired more journalists to ensure that we continue to cover that business better than anyone. The Times has increased the number of staff writers contributing to our Book Review, unveiled a new weekly Op-Ed column on local government and politics, and continued to maintain the largest — and the best — news bureau in Sacramento, giving our readers insights into the dysfunction of California's state government.
Another area where we've expanded is in our efforts to engage in dialogue with our readers. Our Readers' Representative Journal shares information about the inner workings of the newsroom, what goes into the decisions about coverage and how readers react to what we do. Visit it at http://www.latimesblogs.latimes.com/readers.
At present, more than 80% of The Times' editorial staff is focused on Southern California coverage, which is the largest percentage in decades. In addition, our Times Community Newspaper titles — the Glendale News-Press, the Burbank Leader, the La Cañada Valley Sun, the Huntington Beach Independent, the Daily Pilot and the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot — are providing distinct local coverage. In late January, we'll be adding a new Sunday edition to the TCN mix.
We are continuing to invest in our print circulation by adding hundreds of news racks and stores where you can buy our paper. The Times re-established a distribution network in San Diego County, adding several thousand new home delivery customers in that important part of our market.