New Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner broke his media silence Tuesday and appeared in the morning on KPCC's "Airtalk" with Larry Mantle, and in the evening on KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?" with Warren Olney. I gave my response to Olney right after Beutner on the latter segment and said that Beutner, while careful not to make grand pronouncements about the future, said things the journalists at the Times should be happy to hear. He pledged to leave content to the editors, who he praised, and said he's impressed by what the over 500 newsroom staffers (his number) do every day. Olney asked him about the future of foreign coverage, noting that Beutner in the past seemed to belong to the school that wants the Times to shift resources from foreign coverage to local. He said it's important for the top newspaper in Los Angeles to continue to report from overseas, although he allowed that the concept of bureaus — physical offices with staff and support — is not necessarily a given. Beutner also noted that the paper is profitable and that its key business is (and will remain) print, and that his presence as publisher and CEO is not a pre-purchase gambit.
Beutner also said he's aware of the tug between his desire to be a bit of an advocate for Los Angeles and the news ethics of the paper — this is where he stressed he won't be meddling with the news or applying any political agenda to the paper. So that's a good enough start, and bigger questions such as Beutner's vision for succeeding in a world of declining print revenue can wait until he's been on the job for awhile. He communicates to the outside world better than the previous publisher, Eddy Hartenstein, or the paper's editor, Davan Maharaj, so for the first time in a while the LA Times may have a public face and voice at the top that the community in Los Angeles will get to know and who can hold his own with Mantle or Olney.
By the way, Beutner said earlier coverage of his interest in buying the Times was inaccurate. He said the effort was not contemplating a non-profit Times, but always saw the paper as a business venture.
File photo of Beutner: Monica Almeida/New York Times