Publisher, 21 Others, Out at ‘L.A. Daily News’

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The company that publishes the Los Angeles Daily News has fired its publisher and announced it is cutting 21 jobs at the paper, including four in the newsroom.

Tracy Rafter, who served as publisher for more than two years, was replaced by John C. McKeon, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which owns the Daily News and seven other daily newspapers in Southern California that are operated by Denver-based MediaNews Group.

The changes were announced Monday by George Riggs, president and chief executive officer of the California Newspaper Partnership, which publishes newspapers throughout the state and is owned by MediaNews Group, Gannett Co. and Stephens Media. It was reported in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily News.

The moves are “part of an overall plan to better adapt our business cost structure to the fundamental changes that are under way in the publishing industry,” Riggs said in a statement.

McKeon was quoted in the Daily News as saying he believed the 151,000-circulation paper is poised to grow its business and improve its online and printed products.

“I’m deeply grateful to Tracy Rafter and the other Daily News executives for the great contributions to the newspaper’s development in recent years but the pressures on the news and information industries have forced us to consolidate functions so that we can maximize our resources,” McKeon said.

McKeon, 49, has served in various positions at the Los Angeles Times and other papers that were part of the Times-Mirror chain, now part of Tribune Co., as well as at Knight-Ridder Inc. He was appointed president and CEO of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group in August and will retain those responsibilities, according to the Daily News.

The paper’s union represented 110 non-management employees before the layoffs.

“I don’t think anyone is happy about this,” Brent Hopkins, a general assignment reporter and union shop steward, told the Los Angeles Times. “But they didn’t just slash and burn.”

The board of directors of The Associated Press in July elected William Dean Singleton, vice chairman and CEO of privately held MediaNews Group, to be the next chairman of the news cooperative.

Singleton became vice chairman of the AP in July and is expected to succeed Burl Osborne, publisher emeritus of The Dallas Morning News, as chairman at the AP’s annual meeting next May.

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