Word started going around late today that Foreign Editor Bruce Wallace was the next senior staffer to exit the Los Angeles Times. Sure enough, a Facebook posting tonight by Craig Turner — the recently retired arts and entertainment editor, and a former foreign correspondent — says that Wallace is returning to his native Montreal to edit Policy Options magazine. Turner suggests there was tension between Wallace and the still-new editor of the Times, Davan Maharaj.
Bruce was a distinguished foreign correspondent who took over the foreign editor job in 2008. Despite a reduced staff, Bruce kept the LA Times in the game as one of a handful of U.S. newspapers that still have a significant foreign report. Bruce is a strikingly insightful, unflappable and good humored editor. He will be greatly missed. Davan Maharaj has been a grating micromanager since he became editor at the end of December and Bruce, I think, found that unbearable....
It could be tough finding a replacement for Wallace.
Turner also had some pointed analysis of the moves announced earlier today: the hiring of former LA Weekly editor Laurie Ochoa to Turner's old job, and the promotion of Business Editor John Corrigan to assistant managing editor in charge of arts and entertainment coverage. Ochoa would be Corrigan's chief deputy, but according to Turner the two have never met.
I sat next to John at the daily page one meeting most days and while I thought he oversold his stories sometimes (everything was "just terrific," there were no gradations), I came to appreciate his enthusiasm and tough minded approach to business coverage. He has no illusions about the purity of capitalism.
I wish him the best.
Especially, since he didn't get to pick his own deputy. Davan did that for him. Ochoa is married to Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic who joined The Times in February. Shortly after Gold was hired, a person I trust told me that Gold was bragging that as a condition of him coming to the Times, he extracted a promise from Davan that Laurie would get an editing job in Calendar. I dismissed it at the time, but hmmm. . .
That's not to say Ochoa doesn't have her accomplishments, but she has no daily news experience and no digital experience to speak of. Presumably, John will drive the news and investigative coverage and Ochoa will handle features and probably the critics. But the two don't even know each other and standard management practice is to let a department head pick his or her deputy.
Turner later posted an addendum: "I don't want to be unfair to anyone. I have no first hand information that Ochoa's hiring was connected to that of her husband or even that Gold was claiming that. The person who told me he had said that had no reason to make it up and came to me because they thought I would know if Ochoa had been offered a job. But it's still second hand information and I want to be clear about that. Whatever happened, for the sake of the paper I hope she succeeds."
Actually, I think Ochoa's time at LA Weekly probably gives her broader journalism experience than many Times editors have.
Finally, Turner notes that Corrigan succeeding Sallie Hofmeister "leaves exactly one female on the news side of the masthead. People at the paper long have grumbled that Davan has no women in his inner circle. The complaints will now build." He also posted that the Times' entertainment desk now has "10 fewer reporters, editors and web producers than it did in January, 2010 and yet the work demands continue to grow. One reason I retired when I did was that I concluded that while the paper's executives said they wanted world-class entertainment coverage, in fact they no longer were willing to pay for it."