By paulgillin | June 12, 2008 - 7:10 am - Posted in Facebook

David Hiller (left) with Ed PadgettYou’ve got to wonder about morale at the Los Angeles Times after it was revealed this week that publisher David Hiller (left, with pressman Ed Padgett) hatched a plan to move the paper’s monthly magazine completely under the control of the advertising department without telling the newspaper’s editor. Citing anonymous sources, The New York Times reports that Hiller planned to replace the magazine’s entire nine-person editorial staff and that a new editor has already been hired.

That editor’s credentials don’t indicate that a lot of hard-hitting investigative journalism was in the plan. In a droll resume rundown, the Times’ Richard Perez-Pena writes: “The new editor…is Annie Gilbar, who has been the host of a program on the Home Shopping Network. She is a former editor of InStyle magazine and has written or co-written a number of advice books, like ‘Wedding Sanity Savers.’”

The astounding thing is that Hiller apparently didn’t tell LA Times editor Russ Stanton about any of these plans. The publication currently named Los Angeles Times Magazine was going to hit the street in late summer or early fall with no oversight from the paper’s editorial staff, despite carrying the weight of the paper’s reputation and credibility.

Equally amazing is that the plans had moved along this far without Stanton’s knowledge. According to the Times report, Hiller had already hired a new editor, art director and photo editor. Assuming that the previous staff of the magazine was reporting somehow through the LA Times editorial operation, it seems incredible that those changes could be made under the radar.

This puts Russ Stanton in a tough position, of course. The New York Times story, if true, is a public humiliation, the kind of revelation that could prompt Stanton’s resignation. But Stanton’s only been in his job for four months, and he’s the fourth LA Times editor in the last three years. Another resignation at the top level would send staff morale into the tank.

We won’t even speculate about what Hiller was thinking.

Washington Post columnist Harold Myerson has a withering piece about Sam Zell, likening the Tribune Co. CEO to the union activist who tried to blow up the LA Times offices nearly a century ago. “At the rate he’s going, [Zell is] on his way to accomplishing a feat that [the bomber] didn’t even contemplate: destroying the L.A. Times,” he writes. Describing Zell as “a visiting Visigoth, whose civic influence is about as positive as that of the Crips, the Bloods and the Mexican mafia,” Myerson trashes Zell’s pronouncements last week that journalists would increasingly be measured on the volume of their output, noting that under those metrics, the Post’s Pulitzer-winner reporters would find their heads on the chopping block.



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Comments Off on Theatre of the Absurd at LA Times


  1. June 12, 2008 @ 11:45 am

    […] Theatre of the Absurd at LA Times. Oh, good grief: the publisher reportedly reinvents the LA Times Magazine as a creature of the ad department without the involvement/knowledge of the editor. […]