Where Are They Now? 

An ever-evolving list of L.A. Weekly alumni

Thursday, Dec 25 2003

This selection is anecdotal rather than comprehensive. No conclusions should be drawn by who is or isn’t included. The list will be updated as the paper gets reliable information from or about expatriates.

The Bosses

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Jay Levin, publisher 1978 to 1983; editor in chief 1978 to 1988. The paper’s founding editor and publisher created the Weekly out of moxie, journalistic ambition and cultural ferment — helping establish what alternative journalism meant in Los Angeles. In his era, that meant dogging Reagan and Bush Sr. from the left, exposing slumlords, reporting on wrongdoings in Central America, and documenting and spurring a hot local music and club scene, among other things. Levin gradually separated from the paper, giving up in succession his roles as publisher, editor and board member and part owner. His plan to inaugurate alternative television programming, a post-Weekly project that may have been ahead of its time, never fully materialized. His other endeavors have included media consulting, running spirituality and psychology programs, and starting Share With the Other L.A., an organization to educate the public about poverty in L.A.

Kit Rachlis, editor in chief 1988 to 1993. Rachlis left his job as executive editor with the Village Voice to head the Weekly. He continued the process of professionalizing the maturing paper, and he brought in well-known cultural and political voices, including Harold Meyerson, Tom Carson, Steve Erickson, Judith Lewis, RJ Smith and Sue Cummings. His era, which ended with him getting fired, was marked by the rise of locally based columnists who became the paper’s must-read voices. "On the surface, my firing was about publisher Mike Sigman having a different vision of the Weekly than I did," said Rachlis. "In Mike’s words, I had made the Weekly ‘too serious and too intellectual.’ But my firing was actually about something more basic and more mundane: power. Who would shape the direction of the Weekly? Mike or me? Who would have the authority to hire and fire the editorial staff? Mike or me? And like most struggles of power, this one was both principled and petty. I suspect both of us, in retrospect, would like to have handled the situation better. But I also think the firing was inevitable — a question of when, not if." Several writers resigned in protest: Carson, Erickson, Michael Ventura, Ruben Martinez (who was leaving anyway), John Powers and Ella Taylor. Powers and Taylor have since returned. Rachlis went on to become a top editor at the Los Angeles Times before accepting his current job as editor in chief of Los Angeles magazine.

Sue Horton, editor in chief 1994 to 2000. Before she came to the Weekly, Horton wrote a book about the murderous Billionaire Boys Club and taught investigative reporting at USC. She brought these writing and news instincts to the paper, where she bumped up breaking-news coverage, local news analysis and pursued investigative pieces. She hired experienced reporters who came to the Weekly to do more things and better things than they could at the dailies. In this regime, a job at the paper was no longer a starter job, but a destination post for writers she groomed or stole away. Some holdovers complained that the paper was becoming too mature, too professional, too linked to the traditional Democratic Party left wing, not edgy or young enough. Sports coverage was phased out; some columnists were supplanted by reporters. The editorial endorsements became more interesting and more necessary, a good read as well as the best prognosis on which politicians were most likely to make the world a more progressive place. With political editor Harold Meyerson, she brashly turned the paper into a daily during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. She left to pursue a fellowship and a slower pace, and later accepted the position of Sunday Opinion editor at the L.A. Times, where she is today.

Michael Sigman, publisher then CEO 1984 to 2002 (with one-year hiatus). Helped organize the business side of the paper, ever a steadying influence. Regards his contribution as "changing the culture of the paper, person by person, from a horribly dysfunctional one into one where employees by and large felt appreciated and inspired to do their best work, while still maintaining the atmosphere of an alternative paper." Sigman was not well-loved when he fired editor Kit Rachlis in 1993. Sigman said he felt the paper had become too intellectualized and humorless, and also said he wished he’d better handled the tiff between him and Rachlis. By the time Sigman himself got tossed overboard, some nine years after, a later generation of staffers appreciated how Sigman insulated them from advertising pressures and protected editorial independence. He ran a shop that trusted his intent to create a place where people would want to spend their entire careers. To the paper’s investors, such sentiments probably sounded like a recipe for editorial moldiness, entrepreneurial complacency and lower profit potential. Sigman now runs what he describes as a "small but mighty" music-publishing company called Major Songs, which features standards by his famous songwriter father, Carl Sigman, and new works by up-and-comers.

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