Former ‘L.A. Times’ Publisher Uneasy with Hero Label

By: E&P Staff

Jeffrey Johnson, the ousted publisher of the Los Angeles Times, is uneasy with the label pinned on him as a hero to the newsroom.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal that was published Sunday, Johnson said he was just acting on instinct when he stood up to Tribune Co. headquarters on the matter of more staff cuts but that he’s still very much a business strategist.

“I’ve joked it’s like being the general who’s a pacifist,” Johnson told the paper. “That’s not really me. I’m all about being more efficient. I’ll put my track record up against anyone on that one. But hey, I believe I also know how to do it in a constructive way. So I’m a little uncomfortable [with that image], but I certainly believe the issue is an important one.”

What is so striking about Johnson’s stand off with Tribune executives was that it was played out in public-an unusual occurrence at least with publishers. Johnson said that because the turmoil at the Los Angeles Times was documented in the pages of that paper — and several other papers across the country — he felt like he had little choice.

“Because it had become so public, I made the call to weigh in. I certainly wasn’t trying to make a big public story of it. But I think it’s important that publishers stand up to the job at hand,” Johnson said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“I’m not uncomfortable about the debate. It’s an important issue and I think as a company we have to … have a lot of open discussion about how do we get into the future and what’s the best way to do it.”

Johnson was at the helm of publisher for a little over a year after serving as the paper’s general manager. Rosenthal reported that Johnson started to feel that things were going off-track with the paper after he organized several community events and realized people’s concerns.

“You can’t go through that and really be doing it sincerely without being affected by it … and impressed with how important a paper is,” he told the Chicago Tribune.

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