Mary Melton, who takes over as editor of Los Angeles magazine at the end of June, tells me that neither the change at the top nor the financial pressures that led to the layoffs of three senior editors this week foretell any major shift in content. Melton, currently the executive editor, was one of Kit Rachlis' first hires when he became editor in 2000 and they worked closely in synch. She says the mix of stories under Rachlis will largely continue, and stresses that there's been no pressure from the Emmis corporate office in Indianapolis to alter the magazine. "They have really been quite supportive," Melton said when we talked by phone.
"The foundation of the magazine will stay the same," she said. "I'm very proud of the culture that Kit cultivated, and that I've helped him cultivate."
After the jump, some of her plans and that Villaraigosa cover:
Melton said that Jesse Katz, Steve Oney and Dave Gardetta — the writer-editors who got axed this week — are expected to keep writing for Los Angeles as freelancers. Money will be tighter and pages fewer, but she insists the commitment is still there for literary journalism and meaty stories. She mentioned Steve Erickson, Anne Taylor Fleming, Patric Kuh, Ed Leibowitz and Richard Meyer as some of the top writers who remain — Melton herself did an 11,000-word piece on photographer Julius Shulman earlier this year.
That said, Melton said she hopes to introduce some new voices, increase the amount of "provocative industry coverage" in the magazine and do more interactive features to continue stories on the web — to start more of a "conversation about what it means to be an Angeleno."
I asked her about this month's Villaraigosa-is-a-failure cover package, which has met with mixed reactions in the community, and has sparked speculation (of the head-scratching sort) that the cover somehow played into Rachlis' decision to leave. For the record, he has told friends and the staff that he's leaving after almost nine years to work on two books, though he acknowledges that the financial pressures at the magazine played in too.
Melton said the cover was Rachlis's idea and that the magazine is happy with the response. "Was it a bold step? Absolutely," she said. Tons of letters and email have come in, from all across the political spectrum: "I think that Los Angeles needs and wants more of a civic debate."