Today's New York Times carries a man-in-the-news on LAT publisher Jeffrey Johnson, who "seemed to many Los Angeles Times employees to transform himself as dramatically as Clark Kent does when he removes his glasses, steps into a phone booth and turns into Superman." Johnson's public speaking out against the Tribune's call for more cuts is described as out of character for "a modest, unassuming family man with a wife and three sons who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles near Pasadena. (That would be La Cañada-Flintridge.) He is also the exec who ordered ads on the front page of Calendar and other sections, over the objections of editor Dean Baquet.
This ordinary man now finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. Because of their refusals to go along with the cuts, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Baquet are in a showdown with their corporate parent, one that could cost them their jobs and could reverberate throughout the newspaper industry. And that showdown is taking place while Tribune is wrapped up in a bigger drama over its own corporate destiny. The future of The Los Angeles Times, the fourth-biggest paper in the country, as well as the Tribune’s 10 other papers and two dozen television stations hangs in the balance.
Mr. Johnson was summoned to Chicago last week and emerged in what colleagues said was a typically low-key fashion, with the situation defused. He and Mr. Baquet still have their jobs, at least for now. But many say that they expect them to be fired sooner or later and that the paper’s financial challenges — rising costs and declining revenues — are likely to remain.
Times reporter Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Business Journal publisher Matt Toledo and Civic Alliance head George Kieffer are quoted heaping praise on Johnson.
Yesterday: Never a dull moment on LAT beat