County Government Urges Local Control at Los Angeles Times

County Government Urges Local Control at Los Angeles Times
Beutner at the podium via L.A. Mayor's Office

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors is a powerful and low-key body of five that represents 10 million residents. That's more than some U.S. senators. That's more than some governors.

The question is, will the Chicago-based owners of the Los Angeles Times listen what the board has to say?

Today the supes voted unanimously to urge the Windy City's Tribune Publishing to "restore local, established and invested leadership" at the West Coast's largest and most prestigious newspaper. Either do that, the board voted, or sell the thing to a local.

This comes on the heels of Monday morning's unceremonious firing of Times publisher Austin Beutner, a former mayoral candidate and businessman who had been on the job more than a year.

The Beutner era heralded the hiring of famed undocumented journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and former New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones. Beutner brought in all kinds of innovators and disruptors, he boosted the Times' email newsletter count, and he beefed up California and local coverage to the delight of many Angelenos.

In a dreary era for print journalism, the former deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa brought some excitement and innovation back to Spring Street.

Now the clouds are back. 

Poynter.org is reporting today that the Times is looking at another round of newsroom cuts that could amount to 80 positions. Beutner's replacement, Timothy Ryan of Tribune's Baltimore Sun, appears to be the man for the job.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael Antonovich introduced the motion to restore local leadership.

"The appointment of a publisher transferred from outside of the Los Angeles area, and the continued practice of having key decisions made by a body located approximately 1,750 miles and two time zones away, is clearly not in the best interest of operating, growing and nurturing a local newspaper," said Ridley-Thomas, who has, during his tenure on the board, hired more than a few ex-Times staffers.

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The resolution calls the paper "a critical, local journalistic entity."

The board's move follows the publication of an "open letter" aimed at Tribune leadership. L.A. civic and business leaders, including Villaraigosa, developer Eli Broad, former Mayor Richard Riordan, onetime Bill Clinton presidential campaign chair Mickey Kantor and more, endorsed it..

"We strongly urge you to continue with leadership that knows and loves Los Angeles ...," the letter states.

The paper, says the county resolution, is "best served when its leaders, decision makers and journalists are established and invested members of the Los Angeles County community and reflect the commitment to this community that is reminiscent of its storied tradition."

So did Chicago hear that? We doubt it. Brace yourselves for more bad news from the Times.


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