L.A. Times loses two stars *

Investigative reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for reporting on the deaths at King-Drew Medical Center, are leaving the Los Angeles Times for ProPublica, the non-profit investigative startup that is collecting top newspaper diggers. Rumors about Ornstein and Weber's resignations swept the newsroom last week and even reached newsrooms in other cities, in part because they would be such a high-profile loss to the Times. Ornstein has now begun telling sources he is leaving at the end of the month August and will move to New York. It's another big morale blow in the newsroom, which used to be a place where journalists aspired to reach and stay to do their best work. With new deep cutbacks coming and Sam Zell's outbursts making many of the best journalists feel the Times' commitment to serious news is precarious, it's no longer surprising to see stars like Ornstein and Weber flee. In June Ornstein was honored as a journalist of the year by the Los Angeles Press Club in part for his stories reporting on privacy breaches and the treatment of Japanese mobsters at UCLA Medical Center, the incident at Cedars-Sinai with Dennis Quaid's twins and other health beat scoops.

Add Zell: Times columnist Steve Lopez got a zinger in Sunday's column about visiting Chicago (and comparing Mayor Daley to Mayor Villaraigosa.) Lopez: "Chicago is no Emerald City, despite the presence of the yammering munchkins who run the Tribune Co."

Edited for fixes

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