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Baquet out at Times *

Updated repeatedly with new information

Times editor Dean Baquet "is stepping down under pressure from Tribune Company," the Wall Street Journal says in an online story citing "people familiar with the situation." He just confirmed it in an email to the staff:

By now you've seen the Wall Street Journal story on L.A. Observed that I'll be leaving the paper. Believe me, I didn't want it to come out this way. Give me some time, and I'll talk to the entire newsroom later this afternoon, at 3 p.m. outside my office. And do me an even bigger favor. Let's do a hell of a job on the election tonight. Best,

Dean

A story now up on the Times website says the announcement was to be made Thursday but leaked. His replacement will be James O'Shea, managing editor of the Chicago Tribune. [O'Shea just received a "rousing round of applause" at this afternoon's front page meeting in Chicago, a Tribune staffer tells me.] Spring Street newsroom speculation is that the Tribune leaked the story to the Wall Street Journal, perhaps hoping it would be buried in election day news. Fat chance of that. LAT publisher David Hiller's 2:40 pm email to the staff is here. From James Rainey's Times piece:

Baquet told reporters and editors gathered in his office that he did not know whether staff cuts would now go ahead, but it's widely believed among newsroom executives that substantial reductions will be ordered, probably by next year.

"Just remember, it's a great paper and it will stay that way," Baquet told a somber group of editors and reporters who gathered in his office.

Strong reactions at Editor & Publisher (via Romenesko) from the editor who broiught Baquet to Los Angeles, John Carroll, and Metro reporter Henry Weinstein:

"I have been here 28 and a half years and this is the single worst moment in that time," said staff writer Henry Weinstein. "The fact that the newsroom is not making enough money to please some guy on Wall Street is not the reason to get rid of an editor."

"It's one more step toward reducing the Los Angeles Times to mediocrity," said Carroll, currently a visiting lecturer at the Joan Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

Among the many questions looming in the air now is how many, if any, of the senior editors at the Times will follow Baquet out the door. Remember, it was reported that the top three editors had all vowed to back Baquet with their feet. Over time there's no doubt that some top reporters will depart, especially if the New York Times goes on a hiring binge. But there aren't that many jobs out there that pay comparable to the LAT, and besides, the smart money might be to wait and see if the Tribune pays people to leave.

The WSJ story by Sarah Ellison says "Mr. Baquet's departure is likely to ratchet up tensions between the L.A. Times' newsroom and Tribune, just as Tribune's board is exploring the sale of the company or individual assets....The departure of the top editor could spark an exodus of other editors." Just last month, Baquet talked tough at a gathering of national newspaper editors and urged them to resist cuts from above. He previously had admitted that he considered leaving the Times when Tribune ordered the cuts that spurred the departure of publisher Jeff Johnson. On Oct. 5 he told his editors he would be staying.

Previously at LA Observed:
Johnson fired as Times publisher
Beards ready to quit together
Get your Baquet t-shirt
Save Baquet petition
Rutten says LAT future at stake
LA leaders warn Tribune Company
Baquet family saga
Baquet goes with two ME's
It's Baquet's LAT now

Also: My profile of Baquet from Los Angeles magazine last year.

Posted November 7, 2006 01:35 PM • Tell the editor what you think


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