Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59 *

Updated post

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Update: The funeral for Mark Lacter will be held Sunday, Nov. 24 at 12 noon at Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles 90045. Laura Levine, Mark's wife, says that a reception will follow in Cheviot Hills. Maps will be given out at the funeral.

Folks, I'm sad to announce that Mark Lacter has passed away. His wife, the mystery author Laura Levine, told me that Mark suffered a stroke yesterday and could not survive the bleeding on his brain. He was 59 and died at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Mark started posting his coverage of the business scene, media and politics at LA Biz Observed in 2006 — he wrote more than 10,000 posts, many of which explained the complexities of business and economics or chided local officials for an assortment of failings. His final posts went up on Tuesday and reflected the range of topics he could weigh in on with authority: his reading of the 28-page agreement between American Airlines, U.S. Airways and the Justice Department and what it would mean at LAX; a quick update on the SoCal housing market; and his explainer on Amazon.com's push for faster and faster LA deliveries.

Couple of months back my wife and I ordered a set of highball glasses from Bloomingdale's and were told that delivery would take about four weeks. Then came word after several weeks that the item was back-ordered and wouldn't arrive on time. We canceled the order, bought the same item on Amazon, and had it on our doorstep in two days. That sounds like a testimonial, but it's just the online reality of shopping on Amazon compared with shopping on other sites, especially those with brick-and-mortar foundations.

As most of you know, Mark was a regular columnist at Los Angeles Magazine and a weekly commentator on the air at KPCC. Before joining LA Observed, Mark was the editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal and hired a number of journalists who are working in Los Angeles newsrooms today. He worked previously at the Daily News, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle and Forbes. He was immersed on a book on the airline industry when he died.

This is a big loss for everyone who knew Mark and for LA Observed. The archives of LA Biz Observed will remain online, of course. I will post information about a service when the family announces the plans.

Here are some links to media coverage: LA Times, LA Business Journal, LA Weekly. In addition I heard a news report on KCRW during "All Things Considered."

Matthew Segal, Mark's editor at Los Angeles Magazine, posted a nice item today on the magazine's website.

I began editing Mark’s column when he came to the magazine eight years ago. Whether he was writing about boutique banks, Hollywood production flight, the middle-class squeeze, or LAX, Mark had a singular ability to boil down complicated details into a narrative that was easy to follow and a pleasure to read.


It was a skill he’d polished over several decades as a writer and editor. Mark worked at the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Daily News and headed the Los Angeles Business Journal for two stints—one in the ’90s, with a gig as senior editor at Forbes before returning to the Journal. Afterward, he began blogging for L.A. Observed and writing for this magazine while serving as a regular morning commentator on KPCC, the rich timbre of his voice cutting through the hiss of morning traffic as he shared his insights with show host Steve Julian. (Only several years into our friendship, Mark told me he had hosted a jazz radio program as a student in Washington, D.C.)

I could often hear his voice when I was editing his stories—the easygoing turns of phrase, the baritone chuckle. Even when he was systematically dismantling a shibboleth, Mark had a way of steering clear of rancor or cheap shots. Or pretense, because Mark hated pretense, which may be one reason why he took so little credit for the amount of effort that went into his stories—the digging, the digesting of numbers, the crafting and polishing. There was no showboating, and I’ve got no doubt that’s why his work for the magazine was recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association as a frequent finalist for Best Magazine Column (he won in 2011) in the country. Read his work here.

Mark had been with his wife, the mystery novelist Laura Levine, since 1988. “He was the best hubby,” she said over the phone today from her Westside home. “He always made me laugh.” Me, too. We’ll all miss him very much. The man was without peer.

From the post at KPCC's website by Mike Roe and John Rabe.

Lacter had hundreds of conversations on air about the week’s business news with KPCC “Morning Edition” host Steve Julian on his weekly “Business Update” segment, beginning in Sept. 2004.


“It is no secret I looked forward to the four minutes Mark spent with me every Tuesday morning talking about business,” Julian wrote in an email after hearing about Lacter’s death. “He could have been explaining and comparing taxi services or questioning airport politics or museum inner-workings — it didn’t matter. I gained a better understanding of Southern California through his acumen, but I also loved the sound of his voice.”

Lacter has been praised for taking business stories and breaking them down in an easy to understand fashion.

“He told complex stories in everyday language,” Julian wrote. “Our on-air segments also gave us an off-air friendship that I treasure and will miss beyond words.”

KPCC Senior Editor Paul Glickman was news director when he signed Lacter to do a weekly business chat with Julian. “Mark Lacter helped put KPCC news on the map in Southern California,” said Glickman. “He started doing his weekly business analysis with us at a time when the newsroom was still quite small. For the past nine years, his analysis and insights have made us sound smart on a wide range of business topics. No matter what the story was, Mark had a smart take on it.”

Lacter did his last segment for KPCC this past Tuesday looking at L.A.'s congested freeways. That same day he also wrote his last post at LA Biz Observed, covering the American-US Air settlement with the Department of Justice.

Julian also posted a lovely tribute on Facebook.

They were my favorite four minutes each week, without exception, and gave us reason to email back and forth on Mondays and Tuesdays; our friendship was reason to get together, but not nearly as often as we should have. Mark's humor and knowledge contributed not only to our biz coverage, but also to our friendship lo these many years. Laura told me this morning of Mark's stroke and I am devastated by his death.

Mayor Eric Garcetti posted this afternoon on Twitter:

On my Facebook page:

Bloomberg News bureau chief Tony Palazzo: "I worked with Mark at the L.A. Business Journal, and I still work with a number of his many alums. He was a tough boss but he made us better reporters and editors. Big loss for the journalistic community in L.A."

Ex-Wall Street Journal columnist John Lippman: "I read Mark Lacter's posts daily for guidance on how an editor should think and approach a story, hoping to gain wisdom from his insights. Whatever the business and economics story, he could cut through the cant, frame it, break it down, and lay out the probable outcome like few other journalists. I never met him, but he was a role model. A tragic and sad loss for LAO readers and Kevin."

Former LA Times book editor Jon Thurber: "His take on So Cal was very smart and special. A great loss to his family, LA Observed and those of us who value quality reporting/thinking."

Former NBC 4 reporter Doug Kriegel: "Mark was the most solid person covering the LA economy...which gets virtually no coverage. And a great guy."

Joel Bellman, longtime SPJ-LA board member: "Truly terrible news. I'm so sorry to hear it - really smart reporter, excellent writer, genuinely nice guy who was always a pleasure to deal with. A huge loss to our local business/economic reporting corps - our condolences to his family, and to all you guys lucky enough to have worked so closely with him. We mourn with you."

KPCC producer Karen Foshay: "Heavy hearts here at KPCC."

More reaction in social media:


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Recent Editor's note stories on LA Observed:
Holiday week posting
Service for Mark Lacter to be Sunday *
I'm at KPCC this morning * (now with transcript)
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59 *
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