Los Angeles Times Media

LA Times Editor Fired: Deja Vu All Over Again


I step away from the computer for a few hours
to, like, have a life, and while I’m out the Los Angeles Times implodes. He’s the opening of paper’s own story about what happened:

For the second time in 15 months, the editor of The Los Angeles Times has been fired in a dispute over budget cuts ordered by his publisher.

Times Publisher David D. Hiller told Editor James E. O’Shea to step down after the two were unable to agree on Hiller’s plan to cut $4 million this year from a $120-million newsroom budget, according to people familiar with the situation.

The $4 million would be in addition to reductions valued at about $3 million in the newshole, the space in the newspaper devoted to editorial content, these people said.

Kevin Roderick at LA Observed has it right with the opening to his story on the sad and all too familiar tale:

It’s amazing to me that the journalists left at the L.A. Times can put out a paper and a website every day, with all the turmoil that swirls around down there.

No kidding. The fact is, the LA Times is blessed by far better journalists and editors than its management deserves.

As Kevin R. points out, the Wall Street Journal broke the story a little after noon Pacific Time, and he provides links to the WSJ and other related stories. For my money, it’s the New York Times that has the most (sadly) gossipy take:

The removal of the editor, James E. O’Shea,
by the publisher, David D. Hiller, mirrors the odd spectacle of a little more than a year ago, when the previous publisher, Jeffrey M. Johnson, was fired for refusing to eliminate newsroom jobs as directed by the paper’s owner, the Tribune Company. In each case, a longtime Tribune executive was expected to rein in costs at the paper, but instead sided with the newsroom and lost his job for it.

The departure of Mr. O’Shea appears to contradict statements
by Samuel Zell, the Chicago real estate magnate who took over the company last month and is now its chairman and chief executive. Mr. Zell has repeatedly criticized the previous regime of the financially troubled company for trying to improve the bottom line by cutting costs, and he has said that he thinks the path to profit lies in finding new revenue, not paring costs.


Officials at The Times said Mr. Hiller had ordered a $4 million cut in the newsroom budget. Some said he specifically sought to cut expenses related to covering the heated presidential campaign [ITALICS MINE], during a time when such expenses usually spike. Some editors and reporters said Mr. Hiller told them in a meeting in November that he wanted to reduce staff somewhat by the end of this year.


People at The Times said they did not know whether Mr. Hiller was acting on orders from company headquarters in Chicago or on his own initiative; Mr. Zell has said he would allow each of the Tribune properties greater autonomy.

The Los Angeles Times had a newsroom staff of more
than 1,100 people at the start of this decade, but the number has declined to below 900, officials say. Its weekday circulation has dropped to about 800,000, from 1.1 million.

The move, as my momma used to say, is penny wise and pound foolish.
Actually, I think it defines the term.


  • A classic case of not learning from history. The workers forget that they are not management, which has a duty to maximize profits for the owners. If someone working for the Times cannot accept that, then there’s the door to follow others who couldn’t.

  • woody, it’s a more general problem of MSM vs. “new” media: how would YOU, as editor/ publisher, keep up ad revenues when the Times has had to, like its competitors, put its contents online? What “benefit” is there to buying the actual paper?
    Sunday grocery coupons? Macy’s ads and clip coupons? Misc. small ads you might not otherwise read? Convenience? WHAT would you do if you had to increase revenue?

  • I used to subscribe to the L.A. Times years ago and then just bought the newspaper on Sundays. Now with the explosion of news services and information at your finger tips who needs to buy a newspaper? The last time I actually bought a newspaper, I was going to the movies and wasn’t home to look up the movie times and locations. The other advantage is, I no longer leave my dirty handprints on the walls, from the newspaper ink. Even for weekly sales ads I just go directly to the stores web-sites, to look at weekly specials. So L.A. Times can’t even sell ad space like they used to. I sure most people buying the paper are over 50 years old, or need something to line the bird cage.

  • WBC, if I’m the editor of the L.A. Times, I would concentrate on doing the best that I can at my job and let others handle theirs. The editor doesn’t clean the toilets and the editor doesn’t try to run the business. The changing nature of the media is a concern for the publisher–not the editor. Now, he’s out on the street. So much for symbolic protests.

  • The OC Register is also downsizing for similar reasons: people want instant access to news, resulting in fewer hard copies sold (the printing costs of which are going up) and lower ad revenues. They’re taking a different approach: eliminating the stand-alone business section and incorporating “newsworthy” business items into the front section. Stock prices etc. will still be found online. This must be happening across the country.

    In the case of the Times, it seems the cuts were to be across the board. (At a time the paper is already doing less targeted local coverage — which I think is foolish, since the papers that are hanging on best are focusing on localized coverage. E.g., the Daily News has become more Valley and blue-collar oriented, and often downright anti-metro.)

    O’Shea (quoted in L A Observed) makes a persuasive case for why cutting experienced journalists who take the time to write and vet their pieces with professionalism — leaving us with blogs which traffic in gossip and innuendo — is a loss to our society.

  • Don’t take this negatively, but corporations exist primarily to provide competitive returns to investors rather than focus on what is “good for society.” How can a business be “good for society” if it goes bankrupt because it didn’t watch the bottom line?

  • Woody sez: ‘…corporations exist primarily to provide competitive returns to investors rather than focus on what is “good for society.”’

    Sounds like a good working definition for any garden variety criminal conspiracy. Must be more to it than that. Or is Woody being sarcastic?

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