'Los Angeles Times' Publisher Resigns

Jeffrey Johnson Refused Corporate Demand for Cost Cuts

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Los Angeles Times Publisher Jeffrey Johnson resigned today, a month after publicly resisting cost-cutting measures urged by the paper's owner, Tribune Co.
Jeffrey Johnson
Jeffrey Johnson Credit: Los Angeles Times

Last month, Mr. Johnson and the paper's editor, Dean Baquet, made national headlines by refusing to implement further cost cuts at Tribune's largest and most decorated paper, saying they feared additional staff reductions would do more harm than good.

Editor asked to stay
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Baquet -- a former New York Times editor who was seen as a key piece of the Los Angeles Times editorial renaissance under former editor John Carroll -- would stay as editor. Mr. Carroll has publicly criticized cost-cutting at Tribune and other publicly traded newspaper companies since leaving the paper.

This morning, the Los Angeles Times reported on its website that Mr. Johnson had been asked to resign by Tribune Publishing President Scott Smith. Tribune announced today that Chicago Tribune Publisher David Hiller would replace Mr. Johnson at the Times. The Times account also said Mr. Hiller had asked Mr. Baquet to stay on.

A call to a Tribune spokesman wasn't immediately returned. A Times spokesman said he could not immediately comment on Mr. Baquet's status.

"Jeff and I agreed that this change is best at this time because Tribune and Times executives need to be aligned on how best to shape our future," Mr. Smith said in a statement.

Third publisher since 2000
Mr. Hiller will be the third publisher to lead the Times since its acquisition by Tribune in 2000. Mr. Johnson replaced John Puerner as publisher in June 2005. Like Mr. Johnson and Mr. Puerner before him, Mr. Hiller brings more than two decades of experience within Tribune to the job. A former Sidley & Austin attorney, he joined the company as a corporate lawyer in 1983 and subsequently held key roles within its publishing and interactive units before becoming publisher of the Chicago Tribune.

At the Times, he is handed the company's most important and perplexing property, which -- despite its 37 Pulitzer Prizes -- has long struggled to meet the ambitious profit margins demands of its owners. That financial underperformance is generally attributed to a combination of the paper's extraordinary journalistic ambition and the demands of the diverse and sprawling region it covers. And it has been exacerbated in recent years, as circulation and revenue declines have accelerated in the face of an increasingly fragmented media marketplace.
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