Another Head Rolls At The Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times is about to get its fourth editor in less than three years. News has leaked from the Times’ newsroom that editor James O’Shea has been sacked for the same reason three of his predecessors were ushered out. O’Shea, who was air-dropped in from the Chicago hive to replace Dean Baquet, was cut for his unwillingness to implement further cuts to the paper’s budget. Publisher David Hiller, another Chicago transplant has been having trouble finding pigeons to carry out his executions.

After three departures that hinged on an editor’s perception that the paper’s viability would suffer under the the publisher’s proposed budget, you might think that someone in the executive suite would set down his martini long enough to become curious as to why all of these editors would prefer to be fired than to go along with draconian cuts.

While each of the former editors had persuasive arguments for retaining, or even expanding, the newsroom’s budget, O’Shea may have had an even better case. He was looking forward to a year that included a presidential campaign as well as the Olympics. That seems like an inopportune time to be pinching pennies. At the time that Baquet was jettisoned, I criticized the move and mocked O’Shea as another corporate ringer brought in to wield the ax. Imagine my surprise to read O’Shea’s farewell message that included this choice morsel:

“Journalists and not accountants should seize responsibility for the financial health of our newspapers so journalists can make decisions about the size of our staffs and how much news remains in our papers and web sites […] When this industry stops relying so much on cuts and starts investing in Journalism, it will prosper because it will be serving the best interests of our readers.”

These actions on the part of the Times’ parent company, Tribune, are neo-Nixonian in that they emulate the famous Saturday Night Massacre. That was the affair where Nixon had to keep firing Justice Department chiefs until he found one that would carry out his order to whack independent counsel Archibald Cox (Robert Bork turned out to be the willing trigger man). Tribune has had to keep fishing for an editor to do their dirty work. O’Shea was their golden boy who was editing the Chicago Tribune before taking the assignment in L. A. But editors here are apparently as expendable as starlets. Now another has fallen, but not nearly as far as the quality and credibility of the Times.


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