Buyout list at LA Times 'makes you want to cry'

jean-merls desk.jpgAn LA Times newsroom pod.

With dozens of veteran Los Angeles Times journalists cleaning out their desks this week, the magnitude of the experience leaving the building is coming home to people, inside and outside the paper.

Among the departures I have confirmed are two assistant managing editors, the main politics editors for City Hall and California, the bureau chiefs in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and London, all of the obituary writers, most of the "backfield" editors who handle national and foreign stories, the top editors of features and Sunday Calendar, the editor in charge of Column One stories, the wine columnist, the editor in charge of editing standards, as many as a half dozen photographers, at least that many copy editors, and many more in various positions. Other prominent editors and writers are named on lists being circulated, but I have not confirmed their actual plans to finalize the buyout deal. They are allowed to change their mind up to the last day.

"This list gives painful dimension to the loss of knowledge and wisdom that Los Angeles is about to face," says a former editor at both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, on a closed Facebook group where the names are being discussed. "It makes you want to cry." Says another former staffer on the same group: "God, that list is staggering. Wow."

I am only reporting the names that I have confirmed or those of staffers who posted their news publicly. Below are the new confirmed exits I haven't mentioned before; here are what I reported last Friday and earlier last week, with a note from editor Davan Maharaj here. Most of those who are leaving will work their last day at the Times on Wednesday, though some are staying as long as next March.

Maharaj called the staff to a Monday "holiday meal" with the soon-to-be-leaving that I can only assume was mega-awkward for everybody. Below is the invitation that Maharaj sent out; the staffers I have talked to said they have yet to hear from him how beats and tasks will be covered once the buyout takers leave, or any strategy for the future beyond his general hints in his "Comrades" memo back in September.

From: Maharaj, Davan
Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 10:56 AM
Subject: Saying thanks


As you know, many of our treasured colleagues who have decided to take the voluntary separation package will be leaving next week.

Several sections have chosen to have their own get-togethers, but we thought it would be a good idea on one floor to break some bread, co-mingle and pay tribute to our departing colleagues.

Please join us for a holiday meal on Monday, November 23rd at 12:00pm on the 3rd Floor.


Among those who have confirmed they are leaving are two masthead editors:

Alice Short, the assistant managing editor for features, and former editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Henry Fuhrmann, the assistant managing editor for standards and the copy desk.

Others with notes included where they had something to say:

Kari Howard, a senior editor for Column One and Great Reads stories.

It’s been a very emotional decision – I love my job, and the people here are my family.

Tina Susman, the New York bureau chief and former chief of the Baghdad bureau.

I’ve been with the Times only since 2007 and never worked in LA, and I’ve lost track of how many times people have asked me why I live in NY if I work for the LA Times or said “I didn’t know the Los Angeles Times had a bureau in Baghdad!” My immediate plan is to stop setting my clock to Pacific time and to give thanks this Thanksgiving for the wonderful colleagues I got to work with these past few years overseas and in the U.S. A lot of the stories were brutal, but my editors and fellow reporters and photogs made things a lot easier to endure.

Maria LaGanga, the Seattle bureau chief and a former correspondent in San Francisco and Metro.

The Los Angeles Times has given me more gifts than I can count. Mentors to turn me into the journalist I am today. Friends to ease my heart. Opportunities to learn, to travel, to have experiences that otherwise would have been outside my ability to imagine. And now, my beloved newspaper, my home for decades, is giving me another gift, year to reinvent myself. Like many of my colleagues, I am taking the buyout and will be leaving the paper. My last day is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Which is appropriate, because I am grateful--again and always--for the Los Angeles Times. And I wish everyone who is staying and everyone who is leaving the very best.

Tony Perry, the San Diego bureau chief and reporter from Iraq and Afghanistan.

My final day is Wednesday, after 28 years at LAT, always in San Diego. It’s been a great ride and I leave with a barrel of good memories (starting with the late San Diego edition). As for the future, some freelancing and a long-delayed book project, a look at two military figures from the first half of last century. LAT has treated me well and I have nothing but appreciation for the organization and best wishes for the marvelous staff that makes LAT so special.

Lee Romney, the San Francisco bureau chief.

I plan to get trained in radio, and freelance in both print and radio with a focus on mental health, criminal justice and other issues that have a particular impact on vulnerable populations. I’ve learned so much at The Times and I’m grateful for that. It’s time for me to move on but I’ll be pulling for the paper and everyone who remains.

Linda Rogers, the deputy California editor who handles the Sacramento bureau.

As much as I will miss my incredibly talented colleagues, I'm taking advantage of this great opportunity to look at new possibilities.

William Nottingham, the deputy chief of the City-County Bureau.

Eryn Brown, a medical issues writer on Metro's Enterprise desk.

I’ve had a terrific 10-year-run here -- for which I’m tremendously grateful – and I’ll miss my colleagues terribly. At the same time, I’m looking forward to the next phase.

Julie Cart, an environment writer and former National correspondent and sports writer.

I am excited to be moving to CalMatters, the Sacramento-based non-profit news group, covering climate change. I will miss my Times colleagues bitterly. Brave souls, all.

Elaine Woo, most recently an obituary writer, formerly an education writer and editor.

In addition, obituary writers Steve Chawkins and David Colker and obituary researcher Kent Coloma are leaving. The nature of the job means we may continue to see their bylines in the paper for years.

Cherry Gee, the Articles Editor for the Opinion and Op-Ed pages.

Martin Miller, the TV Editor in Calendar.

Mike Boehm, who reports on museums, arts and culture.

Susan Denley, the editor of the Image section.

S. Irene Virbila, the wine columnist and restaurant critic.

Susan King, a staff writer in Features, said she is taking the buyout but staying until March 4 to help cover the Hollywood awards season.

Patrice Roe, a digital editor, said on Facebook that she is taking the buyout.

Pat Benson, a web editor in Business, also confirmed on Facebook that she is leaving.

Anne Cusack, photographer.

Richard Derk, picture editor for Travel and Food.

My weekly LA Observed segment on KCRW on Monday talked about the Times buyouts. It's not online yet but soon should be.

Just for the record, this level of thinning of the ranks is also taking place outside the newsrooms — in other departments of the Times — and at the other newspapers in the Tribune Publishing chain.

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