MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In other news, Dean Baquet, the editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times, has been forced out after clashing with his bosses over proposed budget cuts at the paper. The Chicago based Tribune Company has sought to pump up profits at the LA Times, one of the nation's largest and most prestigious papers.
NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now. David, what is going on at the paper?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's perhaps best described as turmoil. Dean Baquet's been at the paper since 2000. He became editor in chief a year ago. And he stayed on after the former publisher was fired just a month ago over the question of these budget cuts. Baquet said he would not continue if there would be further cuts.
The new publisher said earlier this week, actually, we've got to scale back our ambitions a little bit, stop thinking so much of ourselves like the New York Times, which have these grand bureaus in Washington here, but also abroad, with foreign coverage, intense investigative coverage. And this comes on the top of a lot of past cuts.
When Tribune bought the LA Times and sister papers back in 2000, it had 1200 journalists and now has about 900 journalists. Baquet said that any more cuts would cripple the Times' quality, prevent it from reaching readers and, you know, prevent it from holding onto the circulation it has.
NORRIS: Dean Baquet is a very popular editor in the newsroom. He stood just to the wind and defied this board. What were they asking for and why?
FOLKENFLIK: Well, they came, the Tribune Company executives came to Baquet and the former publisher, Jeffery Johnson, late in the summer. And they said they wanted two things. They wanted ten million dollars cut from the newsroom budget by the end of the year and they also wanted to cut in the near future about, nearly 15 percent of the newsroom staff.
There's a couple reasons it's going on. The LA Times has been losing circulation, like a lot of big dailies. But it also runs at a lower profit margin than the Chicago Tribune, the other sort of mainstay paper in the Tribune chain. The LA Times makes at best a little over 20 percent profit margin, Chicago Tribune a little closer to 30 percent.
The Tribune had fired its last two publishers. The former editor in chief, John Carroll, walked out over this very issue. Dean Baquet himself was just fired for it.
NORRIS: I can't imagine this chair is going to be empty much longer. What's the plan for a replacement?
FOLKENFLIK: The new editor is Jim O'Shea. He's currently the managing editor at the Chicago Tribune. New publisher is David Hiller, who himself came from the Tribune just last month. Hiller said he wants to reconnect with local readers in the areas surrounding Los Angeles, wants to attract and cover Latinos better and he wants to get young readers. In addition, he wants to consider really shoveling resources - or is indicating this - toward the online ventures.
There's also this stark background. It's happening at a time Tribune shareholders are very upset over stock levels. They're very concerned that the company is not worth what it should be. They're forcing Tribune Company executives to put themselves up for sale. And they're considering bids.
NORRIS: This is interesting. The LA Times has always had its own personality. Will that continue?
FOLKENFLIK: It's hard to know. It seems as though the Tribune Company, if it continues under this model, will try to shape it much more in the shape of the Chicago Tribune. However, there's several local billionaires in the Los Angeles market, including entertainment mogul David Geffen, who are very eager to try to buy the Times.
NORRIS: Thank you, David.
FOLKENFLIK: Thank you.
NORRIS: That was NPR's David Folkenflik.
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