Meet the newest L.A. Times publisher

Eddy HartensteinThe reports — starting, I believe, with Cynthia Littleton in Variety back in July — have all been accurate. Up next in the rotating chair of Los Angeles Times publisher is Eddy Hartenstein, the former head of DirecTV. Tonight's Times story says he will take over on Monday. Hartenstein says he was approached by Sam Zell about a month ago and took the job after being assured by Zell that the Times is NOT for sale. "One of the questions I asked Sam was: Are you going to keep this?" Hartenstein told the Times. The answer "was a strong, affirmative 'Yes. This is a keeper.' "

The Times story notes that Hartenstein takes over "at a time when The Times and most other newspapers are losing readers and advertising revenue at a significant rate. Some observers are even questioning whether the newspaper business as currently constituted can survive." But the new publisher, who is 57 and grew up in Alhambra, says "I'm not coming into this with blinders on. I realize that the problems are huge and daunting, but I don't believe there's anything that can't be fixed as long as everyone is pulling in the same direction."

While pursuing a master's in applied mechanics at Caltech in his spare time, Hartenstein was moving up the ladder at Hughes and germinating an idea that would shake up the television industry: using satellites and digital technologies to deliver programming to viewers' homes. Not only would the sound and picture be sharper, satellite TV would make an end run around local cable monopolies, he reasoned.

In the early '90s, Hartenstein persuaded his bosses at GM to finance the venture that would become DirecTV Group Inc. In 1994, DirecTV revolutionized the satellite TV business when it introduced a small receiving dish that could be mounted on a rooftop or apartment balcony, eliminating the need for the wading-pool-sized backyard dishes that had been the standard until then.

Thursday's Times panel: Robin Kramer, Mayor Villaraigosa's chief of staff, said at last night's Aloud panel at the Central Library that she has had conversations with several foundations about their interest in buying the Times. Kramer, who previously led Eli Broad's foundation, said there is interest within the non-profit community in running the Times as a community resource, but also a sense that Zell is not now a willing seller. There was general agreement on the panel, and in the audience, that the Times is vital to Southern California and still better than the papers in most cities — but nonetheless in decline. George Kieffer, head of the Los Angeles Civic Alliance, said he has reluctantly come around to the idea that the Times needs to pull back in from foreign and national reporting in order to save itself here at home. (And the paper's Image section got booed by the audience.) Get the podcast of "Los Angeles Without the Los Angeles Times?"

Hiller out as Times publisher

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