Big turmoil at the Weekly *

News editor Alan Mittelstaedt is out and controversial columnist Jill Stewart is coming in to edit local news coverage. Mittelstaedt pushed the recent story on Miguel Contreras's death and has had a lot to do with the improved coverage of Los Angeles city hall and politics, including the hiring of David Zahniser. Mittelstaedt was described to me as the Weekly editor most like the New Times crowd — the least knee-jerk liberal and most likely to enjoy yanking chains — but apparently was not liked by Village Voice Media editor-in-chief Mike Lacey. Stewart, however, is more ideological than many of the current news reporters at the Weekly but not liberal and she was a Lacey favorite as a columnist at the old New Times Los Angeles. Her name has been circulating around the newsroom since last week.

More: The staff was told at a 4 pm meeting of Mittelstaedt's removal and the layoff of co-managing editor Tim Ericson, the fact-checking department, a copy music editor and a layout staffer. Laurie Ochoa stays as editor in chief, but with Stewart around you have to wonder about Ochoa's authority (and how much of her survival under New Times is connected to her marriage to award-winning Weekly food writer Jonathan Gold.) Stewart has the ear of Lacey, was apparently hired over Ochoa's head, and will be viewed with suspicion as his agent at the Weekly. She comes in with a mixed reputation anyway — while some L.A. politicos and journalists respect her work, many others don't trust her reporting. I'd count most Weekly staffers among the group that feels her political views — conservative-leaning Democrat who dislikes most Democrats — and talk radio-style hype trump reporting.

In addition to writing at New Times L.A. when it tried but failed to take on the Weekly, Stewart is a former L.A. Times staff writer and Buzz magazine columnist who more recently worked as an editor for Pajamas Media and at the Daily News. She wrote a Wired cover story on Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004. Her claims that the L.A. Times groping stories about Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall campaign were timed for political reasons, and that Gray Davis was protected by the paper, brought angry denunciations from LAT editor John Carroll, who accused her of fabricating her stories to become famous. She replied here. Her website.

* Updated a couple of times with new reporting

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