Talking Points

Media notes: LA Weekly massacre, more bad men, LAT editor and Trump


1. LA Weekly staff gutted by new owners
The documents about the October sale of the LA Weekly hinted this was coming, but when the axe fell on Wednesday it fell hard. Nine of the Weekly's 13 editorial staffers were fired, including all five editors and all but one staff writer. I tweeted the news as it was happening, while editor Mara Shalhoup posted the ugly details.

She praised laid-off staffers by name in a string of tweets that I recommend, and concluded: "Thank you, all of you at @LAWeekly, for kicking so much ass. I was hoping for a less heartbreaking ending, but I'm glad we all got to tell the story of this city together." This week's issue was already done, and it's unclear who will write, edit and publish next week's print issue, if it happens.

Also out are publisher Matt Cooperstein, managing editor Drew Tewksbury, staff writers Dennis Romero and Jason McGahan, deputy arts editor Gwynedd Stuart, music editor Andy Hermann; food editor Katherine Spiers; film critic April Wolfe and multimedia designer Garry Santos. The only staff writer retained was Hillel Aron.

On Wednesday the LA Weekly's sale to a mysterious new entity, Semanal Media, formally closed. The buyer has not revealed anything about itself, but did name Brian Calle, the conservative former editorial page editor of the Orange County Register and its sister papers, to run the Weekly. Here's some backstory on him. After the news broke today, Los Angeles media twitter exploded with outpourings of dismay. Several LA Weekly alumni posted their support.

Jonathan Gold, now at the LA Times, won his Pulitzer Prize for writing about food for the LA Weekly.

laweekly-who-owns.jpgAdded: An article appeared late Wednesday night on the Weekly website, under the byline of Keith Plocek, asking who now owns the LA Weekly. "The new owners of LA Weekly don’t want you to know who they are. They are hiding from you." Click on the image here to see the page, in case it gets taken down. (12:40 a.m. update: Yeah, it's down. 1 a.m. update: It's back up.)

2. Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Teddy Davis...
The media news just never stopped coming on Wednesday. Both of the big stars to fall through the day had strong LA angles. For Matt Lauer, fired by NBC for "inappropriate sexual behavior," it's that his former partner on "Today," Ann Curry, was on the news in Los Angeles before going national. There was a lot of support expressed today for Curry, who parted from "Today" in 2012 after a rough year with Lauer. Asked today for a reaction by People, Curry took the high road: "I’m still really processing it.” You have to wonder now, especially, what happened between Lauer and Curry, but kudos to this tweeter after the current two female "Today" co-hosts broke the news about Lauer on the air.

This morning on KPCC, "AirTalk" host Larry Mantle went on the air soon after the news broke that Garrison Keillor was dropped by Minnesota Pubic Radio over an accusation of misconduct. Mantle explained, with some gravitas in his voice, that the success of Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" led directly to the creation of KPCC as the journalism-driven station it is today. The revenue from "Prairie" allowed Minnesota Public Radio to approach Pasadena City College about taking its radio station into a newly formed entity, Southern California Public Radio.

Later in the day, CNN announced that it was dismissing Teddy Davis, senior producer of Jake Tapper's program "State of the Union," over behavior "that does not align with the standards and values of CNN." Davis, you may remember, served for a short time as press secretary to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, then ran here for the City Council in the 4th district and was soundly beaten. [On Twitter, I first posted that Davis worked for Eric Garcetti. It was my mistake and I deleted the tweet.]

As for the morning television boys club, former Hollywood Reporter editor Janice Min has the score.

3. New LA Times editor seems a bit of a Trump fan
Los Angeles Times editor Lewis D'Vorkin is still settling in to his new role running a newspaper. This week he returned to Twitter, and on Wednesday he posted at the first in what sounds like it will be a series of personal messages on the future of the paper. Like the last few Times editors and publishers, he preaches digital-first innovation, content verticals and finding new sources of revenue, while keeping "great journalism" the top priority. No actual details on what he will push that isn't already being tried, but he sets up the newsroom for big changes ahead:

For me, a simple belief system can put The Times on the right path. We must unite the values and standards of traditional media with the dynamics of digital publishing. That’s an easy statement to make. Execution is far more complex. It calls for a deservedly proud newsroom to reorient its collective mind, largely still wrapped in newsprint....

Next comes a new kind of content strategy that works both for the Los Angeles Times and Tronc’s other media properties. California is both a global cultural and economic force. It’s time for Tronc to be a global player in those and other areas, too.

Imagine a content vertical for culture — the intersection of entertainment, music, fashion, food and more. The Times and Tronc should “own” this given the role Los Angeles and California play in shaping how we live. Imagine the gravitas and scale we can bring to these areas with deeply reported stories plus a range of content partners. E-commerce and events can play an important role, too.

Uh oh. The "own" Hollywood (or culture) canard. Every LAT regime pushes this, but none have been able to pull it off. Let's see if D'Vorkin actually adds staff and reporting heft — absolutely necessary if the LAT is to become a leader on a competitive beat it is nowhere close to owning. Videos ain't going to do it. With D'Vorkin, what everyone will be watching is the "range of content partners" — read advertisers — and what part they play in the reader experience. Anyway, definitely read the whole thing.

What I'll be watching with interest is how D'Vorkin runs a newspaper that earlier this year published a series of editorials shaming Donald Trump as Our Dishonest President — "reckless and unmanageable, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions" — then turned the editorials into a book it aggressively sells through house ads. California readers, of course, expect the Times to cover Trump hard and fair, but based on his last piece for Forbes, his account of a 50-minute exchange in the Oval Office, D'Vorkin seems more of a softball player. Don't expect the new editor of the LA Times to be a Marty Baron or Dean Baquet who faces up to Trump's attacks on the honest news media. Snippets:

Trump is Trump. He will always be so, whether sitting behind a majestic desk in the Oval Office, where we talked with him last week, or at the "very best" table at Jean-Georges, a three-star Michelin restaurant in the Trump International Hotel & Tower adjacent to Columbus Circle, where he took me to lunch several years ago....

America's CEO for ten months, Trump's unique C-suite mind has upended all White House norms, yet his new responsibilities humbled him...

The president joyfully showed our editor, Randall Lane, and me a bit of his new stomping grounds--a well-appointed terrace, a now-covered pool, a fabled room and the beautiful golf-course-like greenery outside his Oval Office window. He seemed as proud of the landscape as he is of Mar-a-Lago. From the Big Apple to the nation's capital, Forbes and Trump live on.

The interview piece that Forbes ran is only somewhat less fawning and more challenging toward Trump. Check it out.

4. Read the memo: New city editor
Meanwhile, the LA Times promoted assistant Metro editor Hector Becerra to city editor. That's a key position on local coverage at any newspaper; our columnist Bill Boyarsky used to be city editor at the Times. Here's the memo from assistant managing editor Shelby Grad.
I’m very excited to announce that Hector Becerra will be our new City Editor.

It would not be an exaggeration to call Hector an L.A. Times legend. He’s spent his entire career here, chronicling the city with the heart of an insider and the skepticism of an outsider. Hector was born and raised in Los Angeles, and few people know the city’s many glories and cruelties so well. He’s spent two decades writing about L.A. in innovative and surprising ways. As a feature writer, he specialized in the little guy – the homeless man who built a magical hidden garden off the East L.A. interchange, the tough life of strawberry pickers on the central coast, Boyle Heights’ last Jew and so many more. As an investigative reporter, Hector was at the center of The Times’ accountability crusade in such cities as Bell, Vernon, Cudahy and Lynwood. And that doesn’t count Hector’s brilliant work covering crime and gangs, immigration and, yes, Southern California’s seemingly never-changing but obsessively followed weather.

Hector became an editor in 2015 and has lead our coverage of immigration and neighborhoods. He’s made it his mission to have The Times reflect the Los Angeles of today, with stories that take us inside communities many of our readers breeze past on the freeway.

In doing so, he’s continued a Times tradition that began during the Chandlers’ empire-building, water-stealing days: connecting the sprawling collection of communities and people who live here into a shared civic conservation. Like all of us, he sees this job first and foremost as being about public service. And as you know, he has no trouble speaking truth to power when that is necessary.

In his new job, Hector will continue to run a reporting team but also help organize daily newsgathering and advance planning. He will also assist Monte, our breaking news master who has quietly transformed out morning operation. We saw that in the coverage of the wine country fires, when Monte and Hector mobilized a small army to cover that disaster in all its facets -- the losses, the battles, the deaths and the public accountability. The coverage helped drive to record traffic in October.

We've been through a lot the last few months -- and it's a tribute to all of you that all this drama never diminished the incredible journalism Metro has been producing. The latest this Sunday, Rich's dive into the death of the Mexican dream, says so much about our ambition. Taken together with Rich's last project -- about the plight of Mexican farm workers -- they show a remarkable commitment to expose the crushing inequities of the little guy in Mexico.

And December will bring more important stories so stay tuned.


Also at the LA Times today, the only managing editor who didn't get the axe when the Davan Maharaj regime was booted in August, Lawrence Ingrassia, retired and got a nice little cake and newsroom gathering. He hadn't been at the LAT for long — he was a longtime New York Timesman — but he left with a warm note to the staff.

I will miss your passion and dedication. The adrenaline rush on deadline. The electricity running through a newsroom during a big story. The camaraderie of a band of brothers and sisters working together. Thanks for welcoming to the LA Times for my last hurrah.

5. Lynell George up for a Grammy
Lynell George, the Los Angeles author, journalist (formerly of both the LA Weekly and the LA Times) and writing prof at Loyola Marymount, wrote the liner notes to last year's reissue of Otis Redding Live at the Whisky A Go Go. Now she has been nominated for a Grammy Award.

6. Washington Post busts right-wing 'operative' trying to scam the paper
Great new stuff in the Washington Post on its investigation into Jaime Phillips, the bumbling undercover operator for right-wing dirty trickster James O’Keefe who tried to peddle false dirt on creepy Alabama candidate Roy Moore. The idea was apparently to trick the Post into publishing new false allegations of rape by Moore, then expose the ruse in order to undermine the paper's credibility and insulate Moore from women who have already accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers.

Of course, the Post wouldn't publish any charges like that without thorough vetting — no leading media outlet would dare or want to — and during the reporting process the journalists came to realize that Phillips was a phony. Tonight's story details how many months Phillips spent befriending reporters and attending media events, apparently trying to prove Post reporters were politically motivated lairs and cheats. Turns out — no surprise — the only politically motivated liars and cheats were Phillips and O'Keefe.

"It’s like a junior secret agent from the People’s Republic of Klutzylvania got stung by counterintelligence," writes Rod Dreher in The American Conservative. "Somehow, conservative donors still keep shelling out cash to James O’Keefe’s outfit."

7. Media notes
Gustavo Arellano picks the ten best songs from Jenni Rivera, who died five years ago next month. "Rivera was one of the few celebrities I ever met who kept every promise she made during interviews—she created businesses for her daughters, a non-profit, and even a television show that ABC announced just two days before her death," Arellano writes at Latino USA. On Twitter he adds: "The most honest celebrity I ever interviewed."... Wired has plans for paid content... Former NYT newsletter writer Mike McPhate has launched his promised Golden Stater, a daily report on California.... Julia Wick wrote about LA's possible transportation future for CityLab... Cumulus Media, which owns KABC-AM and KLOS-FM in Los Angeles, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize.

And: Haven't listened to it yet, but Mayor Garcetti chats with The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg in the latest Atlantic Interview.

8. Hollywood, the real place
Kwasi-Boyd-Bouldin-NYT.jpg Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin, the photographer behind The Los Angeles Recordings — "a comprehensive, long term photographic study of the rapidly changing urban landscape" — is featured in a gallery on the New York Times photo blog.
He began the project two years ago in reaction to the head-turning physical changes in the landscape that gentrification brought to the city... The Los Angeles Recordings include photo essays from “South of the 10 Freeway,” “The Liquor Store,” “The Displacement Engine” and other aspects of a city transforming faster than generations of working-class and lower-middle-class residents can handle.

9. Selected tweets

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Talking Points stories on LA Observed:
Nate 'n Al's in play, sexual abuse of swimmers, cougar kills horse
Media notes: LA Weekly massacre, more bad men, LAT editor and Trump
Pacific News Service RIP. NY Times profiles a Nazi. Good reads.
Standing up to Harvey Weinstein
Exits from the Daily News and LAT, mom dress code for Hollywood, more notes
Biggest Los Angeles brush fire was actually in 1938. And more.
Helping in Houston, new lion cubs, Garcetti's back
Garcetti has weekend date in the Hamptons