Marc Haefele writes in the L.A. Alternative Press that the LA Weekly, after months of buildup and labor tension, "finally fired perhaps its best-known reporter and editor." Blume also was a shop steward of the union.
The cause of the dismissal remains unclear. People present at the staff meeting where Howard Blume’s firing was announced Thursday said that editor Laurie Ochoa told Blume — and the dozens of others present — that Blume did not fit "into the vision of the Weekly."
So far, Ochoa has not responded to union representatives’ repeated questions about what the "Weekly vision" consists of. Accordingly, many employees are now unsure how they are expected to perform. Morale at the paper, already bad, is now at an all-time low.
Blume, according to union officials, had been told to produce 3,000 words a week (roughly double a Weekly writer’s average normal output) in his last weeks at the paper. He met his quota, but Ochoa invoked the Weekly union contract’s "aesthetic differences" clause in the ouster of perhaps the most honored reporter — particularly for his years of investigative reporting on the Los Angeles Unified School District — in the free paper’s 26-year history. At the week’s end, staff members said, Blume brought his wife and two children to his office to help him remove files and personal effects he’d acquired in his award-winning 11-year tenure.
Haefele reports that eight employees have been targeted or laid off. He writes about Tulsa Kinney, a 16-year veterean of the art department fired last month "after what she described as '15 years of good performance reviews.'" "They are trying to break up the union," she told Haefele, himself a former Weekly staffer. Blume, incidentally, has a byline in the current Weekly, about a toxic office building on Wilshire.