When the LA Weekly staff moves to Culver City next week, it will do so without Deputy Editor Joe Donnelly. His position was cut by Phoenix, I'm told by sources close to the paper. When Jill Stewart was brought in by Village Voice Media in 2006, the skeptical-of-Jill faction saw Donnelly as a key holdover who had guided solid stories that raised the newsroom's local profile. Donnelly's friends say they expect him to finally write the novel, and in reply to my email query he doesn't seem too broken up by the exit:
It's an amicable parting. I have nothing but good memories of my time at the Weekly and I'm very proud of the work we did and what I brought to the Weekly, which I think was some animating energy and exciting new voices at a time when the paper needed it...I'm not sure what context to put it in, other than that I'm looking forward to new challenges and writing more. No bad feelings on my end.
Editor Laurie Ochoa also replies:
I can tell you that Joe Donnelly was one of the reasons the LA Weekly has been so strong over the past few years. I've relied on him to help bring fresh voices to the paper and develop new talent. He also knows how to get star writers to do their best work for us. He's edited our most popular columnist, Nikki Finke, for years; he helped shape some of Christine Pelisek's best cover stories; he was behind Sam Slovick's groundbreaking Skid Row series, and he brought us Peter Landesman's recent cover piece on L.A. gangs as well as Steven Kotler's cover piece on steriods, which challenged conventional wisdom on the subject. He also wrote some of our best cover profiles and still writes a blog that generates some of the highest number of comments on our site. He also regularly serenaded the staff. He livened up the joint.
The good news is that Joe plans on doing a lot more writing, much of which we plan to publish. He's been the guiding force behind so many books through the years -- I think it's time he writes his own book.
Finke also replies to my query:
Joe has been the editor on my LA Weekly columns (I don't have an editor on my website) for several years now. He's one of the finest editors I've ever worked with, and one of the best people I've ever worked with. It was not just an incredibly bonding experience when we looked for trendier synonyms for smackdown words like "moron" and "douche bag" to describe the denizens of Hollywood. But he also had the balls to challenge me constantly about my opinions and insights. He made me dig deeper week after week. And, most impossibly of all, he made me meet deadlines.
That's the best thing about Joe -- his passion for his writers. He really brought out the best in us. Not only is he one of the most knowledgeable people I know, but he's also one of the best writers (which is rare for an editor). I'm crazy about the guy, and not just because he's tall and strapping and ridiculously handsome....I think he has the capability to write the Great American Novel as well as be The Voice For His Generation Of White Males. Now he'll have the time to stretch those muscles.
Longtime copy editor Sheila Beaumont, a veteran of 26 years, also reportedly retired rather than make the commute to Culver City. (She takes the Gold and Red lines from South Pasadena now, a friend says.) The Weekly staff says farewell to Donnelly and to Hollywood Friday night at 6 pm at Boardner's, their traditional gathering spot.