Puerner Steps Down as ‘LAT’ Publisher/CEO; Johnson Will Take Helm

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By: E&P Staff

Tribune Publishing announced on Tuesday that Jeff Johnson, executive vice president/general manager of the Los Angeles Times, will become president, publisher, and CEO of the newspaper on June 1. He succeeds John Puerner, 53, who assumed the post in April 2000.

“I’ve decided to leave the Los Angeles Times to take a self-imposed career break after five very rewarding years here,” Puerner said. “I have had rich experiences at Tribune’s corporate office, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and, of course, the Times.” Puerner joined Tribune Co. in 1979.

The Times reported on Wednesday: “Management associates of Puerner’s, who asked not to be quoted by name, said that his desire to spend more time with his family was real. But one noted the considerable pressure the publisher had been under from Tribune Co. to cut expenses and expand revenue. Another added: ‘There undoubtedly were other frustrations, other factors.'”

The paper won five Pulitzer Prizes last year but has had a rough year on the revenue and circulation fronts.

“We have identified our key strategies as growing readership, managing the business in a smart way and providing good solutions to our advertisers,” Johnson said in the Wednesday Times story. “And those are the long-term, enduring strategies that we plan to … move on.”

The newspaper observed on Wednesday: “The management shift at The Times comes on the heels of a change at Tribune Co. late last year, when longtime newspaperman, novelist and journalism commentator Jack Fuller was replaced as head of the company’s publishing group by Scott Smith, who has a background in strategic planning, acquisitions and investment.

“Similarly, the shift from Puerner to Johnson in Los Angeles marks the ascension of a publisher whose primary training was in business, rather than one who began with an interest in journalism. Puerner had worked for his college paper at the University of Colorado, and enjoyed telling audiences that he had only pursued a business degree as a way of working in a business that he loved — newspapers.”

The Times noted today that Editor John Carroll said “he had no plan to follow Puerner out of the company. But he said he was not sure what the future would bring. ‘Editors live from publisher to publisher, and we have a new publisher who I know and like,’ Carroll said. ‘And I hope he knows and likes me. But, you know, nothing is guaranteed in life.'”

On Tuesday, in a memo to staffers, Puerner wrote: ?I don’t have any specific plans for the future, other than to spend the summer with my family supporting endeavors important to them, which have taken a back seat to my career. In the meantime, I am committed to doing everything I can to assist in a smooth transition. For the time being, we plan on staying in Southern California where I hope to remain involved in a community that I have become very fond of.?

Johnson said: “I’m honored to be given the opportunity to be publisher of the Los Angeles Times. We are uniquely positioned in Southern California and will continue to pursue strategies to expand readership and grow revenue.”

A Chicago native, Johnson, 45, joined the Times in May 2000 as senior vice president/general manager.

Prior to the Times, Johnson served as president and chief executive officer of Landoll, Inc., a former Tribune Education company. He joined Tribune’s corporate office in 1984 and subsequently held positions at the Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel.

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