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Dean Baquet Forced Out at Los Angeles Times

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Monday, November 6, 2006

Editor Resigns After Refusing to Cut Further

"Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet is to leave under pressure from the newspaper's owner, Tribune Co., said people familiar with the situation," Sarah Ellison of the Wall Street Journal reported for online editions Tuesday.



"Mr. Baquet is departing a month after Tribune ousted the newspaper's publisher, Jeff Johnson, and replaced him with David D. Hiller, then the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Weeks earlier, both Mr. Baquet and Mr. Johnson had publicly resisted pressure from Tribune management to make a new round of job cuts."

The Journal story prompted the Times to put out a story on its own Web site, reporting that, "Baquet was forced to resign as editor of the Los Angeles Times at the request of the publisher after he refused to agree to further cuts of his editorial staff.

"Baquet's departure was to be announced on Thursday but word leaked out this afternoon and the 50-year-old editor confirmed to his staff that he would be leaving the paper on Friday.

"Baquet will be replaced by James O'Shea, who is currently managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and a long-time employee of the Tribune company, which owns The Times and 10 other daily newspapers.

"O'Shea is expected to assume the job on Monday.

"Baquet told reporters and editors gathered in his office that he did not know whether staff cuts would now go ahead, but it's widely believed among newsroom executives that substantial reductions will be ordered, probably by next year."

"Just remember, it's a great paper and it will stay that way," Baquet told a somber group of editors and reporters who gathered in his office, the Times story said.

Hiller said in a memo to the staff, "When I came here four weeks ago, Dean Baquet and I agreed that we would work to get to know each other, for me to get to know the newspaper, and we would decide if we were on the same page in terms of the strategic and operating direction of the paper. After considerable discussion, we concluded that we have significant differences on future direction, and so Dean will be leaving," according to LA Observed.

Just last month, Baquet, who publicly opposed staff cuts at his newspaper last month, encouraged other editors to push back more against newspaper owners when they propose such cuts, as Katherine Q. Seelye reported in the New York Times from the Associated Press Managing Editors convention.

"'Sometimes when I sit down with editors and managing editors, I find them all too willing to buy the argument for cuts,' he said. 'We need to be a feistier bunch," she quoted him as saying.

"'It is the job of the editor of the paper to put up a little more of a fight than we've been willing to put up in the past,' he said, because a public service is at stake. 'We understand the business model is changing and we have to do some cutting,' he said, 'but don't understand it too much.'

Baquet said then he had considered quitting and had a long talk with Johnson about what to do, Seelye wrote. He said he thought he could work with the new publisher, Hiller, and finally decided "the best way to protect the paper was for me to stay," she wrote.

Baquet was the first black top editor at the paper and was the black journalist heading the largest U.S. newsroom.

He came to the L.A. Times from the New York Times, where he had been national editor. When Howell Raines left as that paper's top editor in 2003, Baquet was mentioned as a possible successor. But Baquet said then, "I really love being the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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