Hartenstein's first meeting

New Los Angeles Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein met some of the staff this afternoon and didn't make any headlines. That's a switch from previous debuts by Times and Tribune executives. He says he's a 213 guy, was asked to take over by Sam Zell about a month ago, and would leave if Zell meddles. Here's an informal, unofficial report from a veteran newsroom employee that found its way into the LA Observed in-box.

Just got out of a meeting with Eddy.... He says all the right things--but so did the previous publishers. He seems genuine, bright and has poise. He's a local and is familiar with the paper; a dedicated reader (and yes, it's apparent he reads the sports section, unlike some I could mention). When people asked questions, he recognized their bylines--very heartening to the staff.

The question of more layoffs was posed in half a dozen different ways and he said he hadn't been given a target number for the staff, that Sam Zell told him to run the place, etc., etc. He did say (as did Mark Willes and Sam Zell) that we can't cut our way to prosperity. In the final question, some hard revenue numbers were brought up, attributed to David Hiller (revenue of $80 million for print and $30 million for the web) and he said he hadn't seen numbers anything like that. He said his main goal is to keep the paper in the black through the end of the year.

He emphasized that he hadn't been recruited for the job; that he was happily retired and was introduced to Zell through a mutual acquaintance. He and Zell had lunch and that was that. About a month ago Zell called and asked: "How'd you like to run the L.A. Times?" He also emphasized that he doesn't need this job and left the strong impression that he expects Sam Zell to be a man of his word about freedom to run The Times and if Sam doesn't keep his word, Hartenstein will be gone. Hartenstein and Zell are supposed to talk in roughly six months about how things are going....

People asked about his lack of experience with newspapers. He said he has lots of experience with DirecTV in getting and retaining subscribers.

Funniest moment.... He was discussing Zell and someone's cellphone went off, playing the theme from "The Exorcist."

Much laughter.

He says he's a "213" guy, not a "312" guy. Also much laughter.

Biz is doing the real story, these are just a few random notes.

New publisher speaks
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