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O'Shea Firing in L.A. Sparks 'Unsettling' Reaction

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

O'Shea Firing in L.A. Sparks 'Unsettling' Reaction

Article excerpt

Reaction to the firing of Los Angeles Times Editor James O'Shea, the third top editor to leave the paper in less than three years, is ranging from shock to concern over the paper's future.

Industry leaders and current and former employees worry that the firing of O'Shea, who had held the editorship for just 14 months, means more cutbacks at the legendary paper and the potential for reductions in the Washington and foreign bureaus.

Stephanie Simon, a 15-year Times staffer now in the Denver bureau, called the news unsettling. "We have more turmoil and we are concerned about continuing to attract and retain the best talent," she says. "It adds to the uncertainty."

Doyle McManus, Washington bureau chief, said his 39-person staff is not expected to be cut any time soon. "There have been no discussions about cutting the Washington bureau," he told E&P. "No one has broached that proposition."

As for O'Shea's departure, he said: "Like every other newspaper in the country, the LA Times has been trying to do the best job it can under adverse conditions. We are still one of the four best newspapers in the country; we still produce a foreign, national and Washington report that is as good or better than it was 10 year ago; and we still have more foreign correspondents in the field than any other general interest newspaper besides The New York Times."

One veteran editor there, who requested anonymity, supported O'Shea's stance. "I think Jim did the right thing and he pointed it toward the right problem, which is that the management strategy seems to be increasing cuts and it hasn't changed much," the editor contends. "These cuts are very modest; the actual cut to the budget was negligible. Jim was actually protesting them in a presidential and Olympic year when the budget usually goes up."

"I think it is remarkable how good the paper continues to be. But how long that can continue is of great concern," said one Washington bureau staffer at the Times, who requested anonymity. "People are once again a little shell-shocked."

"It's very disappointing to see a great newspaper going down," said Alex S. Jones, executive director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy and a former New York Times media writer. …

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