Austin Beutner makes an appearance this weekend on CNN's "Reliable Sources," taking questions from host Brian Stelter about his firing as publisher of the Los Angeles Times and the future of newspapers. "It's clear we had a difference of view in where we thought the business needs to go to be successful," he told Stelter about his firing by Tribune Publishing. Beutner refers to the "lost decade" of Tribune Co, ownership of the Times, and when asked if the current buyouts and future cuts would have happened under his watch, he said that the paper can't cut its way to prosperity. The key, he says, is the quality of the journalists and the work they do, and the autonomy of a paper like the Times to create a successful local model.
Another good line for Beutner: when asked what he thinks of Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Griffin's optimism that young people will embrace newspapers, Beutner says: "That feels a little bit like 'Back to the Future' part two; Cubs winning the World Series; it didn't quite happen that way." They both had a little chuckle about that; let's note that the Tribune Company used to own the Chicago Cubs.
Beutner also says he is not directly involved in any talks about acquiring the Times or Tribune Publishing.
Here's a two-minute teaser for the segment:
Also Thursday, KPCC's Ben Bergman posted a long piece examining Eli Broad's desire to buy the LA Times. Broad doesn't speak, but his friend and sometimes-lawyer Mickey Kantor makes it sound as if Broad is actively interested. “Edythe and Eli have literally given hundreds of millions of dollars to this community, charitably," said Kantor. "So this would just be one more opportunity for them to do that, but at the same time build an institution which has greater value in the future.”
Media analyst Ken Doctor says in the piece that there is no doubt what kind of owner Broad would be — just look at the Times under Beutner. I'm quoted casting doubt on that thesis, since we really have no idea how protective Broad would be of highly placed friends or business interests, and I note that inside the Times newsroom many thought that Beutner was kind of a meddler in editorial decision-making. I also say that Broad is a "walking conflict of interest" due to all the complicated loyalties and interests he has in the city, and they are always being covered by the Times. I did say it, but what didn't make the story is I also said it's possible that Broad would turn out to be the benevolent hands-off owner a newspaper needs.
Doctor, in a separate piece Thursday in the Chicago Tribune, says "the odds are better than even that there will be a new bid by Broad and associates for Tribune Publishing by year's end." If so, you have to believe Beutner will be back involved. In that story, Tribune stockholder Oaktree Capital is said to be happy with the cost-cutting that is leading to an extensive buyout of senior editorial employees at the Times