Magazine Dispute Rocks ‘L.A. Times’ — Who’s in Charge Here?

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By: Joe Strupp

An apparent dispute over the future of the Los Angeles Times Magazine has erupted following a decision to transfer control of the magazine from the news department to the business side, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The report claims that Los Angeles Times Editor Russ Stanton, who took over just a few moths ago, has protested the move and asked that the magazine be renamed without the newspaper’s flag in the title.

The new editor, according to the New York Times, is Annie Gilbar, a former host of a program on the Home Shopping Network and a former editor of InStyle magazine who has written or co-written a number of advice books, including ?Wedding Sanity Savers.? The New York Times reported that the new editor, art director and photo editor had been hired for the magazine without anyone in the news department being informed.

However, the L.A. Times has now denied the hiring of a top editor.

“The plan for the magazine was set in motion months ago,” the New York Times reported. “A new editor and others were hired, future issues were planned, and mock-up covers were made ? all without the knowledge of anyone in the newsroom, including the top editor, Russ Stanton, the executives said. Mr. Stanton and other high-ranking editors learned of the plan last week, they said.

“The arrangement would flout the tradition at most newspapers, which keep business operations, like advertising and circulation, completely separate from the editorial department, which controls decisions about the contents of news and feature pages,” the New York Times added.
But, the New York paper stressed: “the executives who described the plan cautioned that it might have changed since last week, after editors raised objections.”

The story included no comment from Los Angeles Times officials, who were reportedly unavailable or declining to speak. Calls from E&P Tuesday morning were not yet returned.

The magazine dispute is the latest in a string of recent events to hit the Los Angeles paper and parent company, Tribune, whose new owner Sam Zell has directed a cutback in staffing and, potentially, page counts.

The Los Angeles Times Magazine has been a point of sensitivity at the paper since 1999, when the magazine produced a special edition on the Staples Center arena, from which advertising revenue was shared with the arena itself.

The New York Times also reported that “as recently as a week ago, top editors at the paper were not sure whether [Publisher David] Hiller would eliminate the magazine. But the executives who described the coming changes said the publisher decided months ago to keep it alive with a new staff. Some earlier versions of the plan called for some degree of newsroom oversight, they said, but not the most recent one.”

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