LAT Magazine demise story finally lands

The New York Times has posted the story it almost ran last week revealing a sloppy end to the Los Angeles Times Magazine as a newsroom product. This being the new L.A. Times, they couldn't just kill the magazine — they also had to fumble into another embarrassment in the national media. NYT reporter Richard Perez-Pena, citing two executives who said they would be fired if their names got out, reports that LAT editor Russ Stanton learned just last week that the magazine had been taken over by the business side and a new editor hired without his knowledge. The new editor is Annie Gilbar, a former editor of InStyle who also "has been the host of a program on the Home Shopping Network....and has written or co-written a number of advice books, like 'Wedding Sanity Savers.'" Prototypes were designed and an entire new editing staff quietly hired, the NYT says, adding that when Stanton discovered this he asked publisher David Hiller to at least change the magazine's name so readers wouldn't be fooled. From tonight's story:

The arrangement would flout the tradition at most newspapers, which keep business operations, like advertising and circulation, completely separate from the editorial department, which controls decisions about the contents of news and feature pages.

The plan for the magazine was set in motion months ago. A new editor and others were hired, future issues were planned, and mock-up covers were made all without the knowledge of anyone in the newsroom, including the top editor, Russ Stanton, the executives said. Mr. Stanton and other high-ranking editors learned of the plan last week, they said.

But the executives who described the plan cautioned that it might have changed since last week, after editors raised objections....

A spokeswoman for The Times, Nancy Sullivan, said that she, Mr. Hiller and Mr. Klunder would not comment on the subject. Mr. Stanton also declined to comment.

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Before Mr. Stanton took the top editorial job in February, his three predecessors had left in fairly rapid succession after refusing to make staff and budget cuts that they found repugnant. Now it looks as if Mr. Stanton will be facing difficult decisions over editorial resources and control.

The executives who described the events at the magazine said they had to remain anonymous because they would be fired if it became known that they were sources of the information.

They said the first issue of the reconstituted magazine was scheduled to be published in August or September, with Michelle Obama on the cover.

Besides being another blow to the LAT's prestige, the magazine becoming an advertising tool is extra-sensitive because in 1999 the Times was forced to back down from a secret business arrangement between the magazine and Staples Center. That fiasco caused the staff to revolt, ex-publisher Otis Chandler to go public with derisive objections, and the paper to conduct and publish a lengthy probe into its own ethics. Shortly after, the paper was sold to Tribune.

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