Advocating Local Leadership at the Los Angeles Times

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Saying Los Angeles County is best served when its journalists are “grounded in and committed to the communities” they serve, the Board of Supervisors unanimously resolved Tuesday to “strongly urge” the parent company of the Los Angeles Times to “restore local, established and invested leadership” in the newspaper or consider its sale to “local, established and invested business leaders.”

The board acted on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael Antonovich, who expressed concern about Chicago-based Tribune Publishing Co.’s Sept. 8 decision to replace the Times’ Los Angeles-based publisher Austin Beutner with Timothy Ryan, who lives in Baltimore.

“The appointment of a publisher transferred from outside of the Los Angeles area, and the continued practice of having key decisions made by a body located approximately 1,750 miles and two time zones away, is clearly not in the best interest of operating, growing and nurturing a local newspaper,” Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Antonovich said in their motion.

The Times, first published in 1881, is the County’s largest daily newspaper. It has won 43 Pulitzer Prizes, including six gold medals for public service – far more than any other local media organization.

In its resolution, the Board said the Times “serves as a critical, local journalistic entity” that “chronicles the cultural life of the distinct yet connected communities within Los Angeles County and analyzes the social significance of civic, business and ecumenical developments that shape and guide daily lives.”

It added the Times’ readership is “best served when its leaders, decision makers and journalists are established and invested members of the Los Angeles County community and reflect the commitment to this community that is reminiscent of its storied tradition.”

A Poynter.org report released Tuesday said the Times’ newsroom could be decimated by cost-cutting measures to be implemented under the new regime. Citing an unnamed Tribune executive, the report said about 80 editorial positions could be eliminated through buyouts and/or layoffs.

Several days before, dozens of influential Los Angeles civic leaders signed an open letter to Tribune CEO Jack Griffin, expressing disappointment over Beutner’s dismissal.

“We strongly urge you to demonstrate to the news consumers of Southern California that the Times will continue to serve their interests,” they said. “The alternative would be to do great damage to both our community and your bottom line.”

Among the signatories are former Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa and Richard Riordan, and billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad.