Update: Fox spokeswoman Claudia Russo says she “can confirm that John's contract has not been renewed,” and that “an extensive search for his replacement” is underway. She will not explain why, exactly, Schwada is being let go, but says “it's just him” — not part of a larger round of layoffs.
Originally posted at 11 a.m.
Very strange timing: One month after longtime FOX11 news reporter John Schwada received an extensive tribute at the L.A. Press Club awards, management has decided to kick him to the curb. Or, as LA Observed gracefully puts it, “he was told this week that his contract won't be renewed.”
Schwada sounds dazed when we talk to him this morning. “I hear that they want more enterprising stories and tough probing stories,” he says. But, he later adds, “People who are familiar with this [say] the reasons that were given to me were disingenuous.”
The Joseph M. Quinn Award is the top journalism award in SoCal for a body of work over many years. And nobody deserved it more than Schwada:
He's one of the only hard-hitting print guys in the region who's successfully transitioned his investigations into criminal/political corruption to a network-TV audience.
Prior to joining KTTV in 1996, Schwada worked as a political and City Hall reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. In the 1980s he won LA Press Club awards for his series investigating Councilman Richard Alatorre's illegal use of campaign money in his 1985 council race and for his investigation of Mayor Tom Bradley's questionable ties to Far East National Bank. After the Herald-Examiner folded in Nov. 1989, Schwada was immediately hired by the Los Angeles Times where he helped develop a weekly political column for the paper's Valley edition, covered politics and City Hall.
Though Kevin Roderick at LA Observed writes that “newsroom sources see it as the handiwork of new news director Kingsley Smith,” Schwada doesn't think so.
“Kevin never bothered to call me. I would not attribute it to Kingsley Smith,” he says.
If not Smith, then who? Schwada says he has no idea “who to attribute it to,” because “there's all sorts of layers” of management, but he claims Smith told him the decision “was in the works before he even arrived here.”
Again — very strange, a little heartbreaking, and ironic, taking into account the video that Schwada's colleagues put together to screen during his Quinn Award reception. The video featured the entire FOX11 newsroom commenting on what a terrible reporter he was. It was a joke, a fond roast of sorts, one that Schwada guesses he might have invited with his “humor, which tends to be self-depricating and ironic and sarcastic” — but it's not so funny anymore, considering management was well aware they'd be letting Schwada go.
One of the “bloopers” used in the tribute:
“[The layoff decision] might have something to do with maybe my lack of discretion and surliness and general, sort of, juvenile spitball-throwing attitude about authority figures,” he says.
LA Observed's Roderick writes that new news director Smith “reportedly arrived talking about the station's 'embarrassment of riches' and plans for a new 5 p.m. news show that won't be like all the other 5 p.m. shows in town.”
But in our opinion, Schwada is one of the only things that separates FOX11 from its competitors.
The veteran City Hall watchdog tells us that, aside from himself and fellow investigative reporter Chris Blatchford, “there are lots of talented people here, but they really don't share the same kind of interest in reporting … that old cranks like Chris and I have.”
He's right. This Monday, Schwada wrote a story about city officials golfing on the taxpayers' dime. On Tuesday, he was informed he would be laid off. On Wednesday, he updated a story about “phone fakers,” or scam aritsts who mass-dial people listed as having credit problems, then capitalize on their fears via fake loan collections, etc.
He also aired a segment earlier this month on Internet scum who make money off leaked sexting photos by posting them to websites: The reporter says he tracked down the email address of one guy who lived in England to an email address, at which point “we engaged in somewhat combative conversation about what a jackass he was.”
Classic Schwada. We've contacted Fox for comment.