WSJ on Chicago-LA war

The Journal's Sarah Ellison does a good job explaining how the culture clash between Tribune and the Times has escalated to the point that two Los Angeles publishers and two editors have left, the newsroom is in turmoil and the company is for sale with its value falling. She doesn't have the revelation about secret meetings with Eli Broad that was in this morning's LAT version, but has some other juicy tidbits. Apparently Tribune CEO Dennis Fitzsimons exacerbated the tensions when he told Times staffers that readers preferred their foreign news from Google and Yahoo, rather than papers like the LAT. There were disagreements over the Washington bureau and staffing, but at root (as I've been saying) is basic resentment of the rival institutions.

Some Tribune executives think the Times is arrogant, spoiled and overstaffed, a paper with global ambitions that has ignored local readers. Some Times people consider the Chicago Tribune an inferior, provincial product. Times denizens, proud of their city's position as the nation's second largest, see the paper's owners as bean counters in business suits. Tribune thinks its Californian charges are too slick and prefer to take pride in the company's Chicago roots.

Unlike many battles between journalists and corporate bosses, which focus largely on spending, this one is also driven by fundamental differences between the philosophies of the two newspapers.

"It's a tragic, bad marriage," L.A. Times editor Dean Baquet has told colleagues. Mr. Baquet's own tenure was cut short amid the infighting and his last day is today.

Baquet's managing editor and close friend, Doug Frantz, gives voice to one of the many elements dividing Tribune and Times culture. He had previously worked at the New York Times, and was in Istanbul for the LAT before becoming Baquet's number two. Like many in L.A., he wants to work for a paper with international and national ambitions. "I didn't want to come back to work for a really good local newspaper and I still don't," he said.

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