Several high-profile staffers are cut after movie advertising fails to deliver. A Metro editor tries to buck up: “We whip asses”
Another round of layoffs is underway at the Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, the first names began to surface: Tim Rutten, a former reporter and editor turned op-ed contributor is out. He had been at the paper nearly 40 years.
Other Times veterans joining him are Mark Heisler, the Times’ long-time NBA writer, sports columnist Jerry Crowe, assistant travel editor Jane Engle and assistant business editor Sharon Bernstein. All three had been at the paper more than 20 years.
One Times staffer said "Heisler was a surprise for everyone." He would seem especially valuable given the impending NBA lockout.
Also on the list? Environment reporter Margot Roosevelt, blog editor Tony Pierce and web producer Kelsey Ramos Conroy.
Roosevelt's departure received a lot of attention for the way she found out. She was in the Arctic Circle on a journalism grant about to board a helicopter, a fact she included in her farewell e-mail. Though she was a relative newcomer to the Times, she has been a working journalist for nearly 40 years, including long stretches at the Washington Post and Time.
Like Roosevelt, others who were let go sent out farewell emails to the editorial staff. Engle wrote: "I'm adding my voice to this year's sad chorus after more than 27 years at the Times. I am being laid off effective Friday." Later in the message, she added that she is on the board of the L.A. Press Club, and offered an email address to anyone looking to take her place.
Pierce also sent a "long long long" email that about how he came to the Times, a staffer said.
This person said the total number of those let go is around 15, but some were voluntary.
Editor Russ Stanton and President Kathy Thomson had a number they had to meet and were huddling with senior executives last week to decide on the cuts. When word got out, some staffers came forward and offered to leave while those still on the chopping block were called in by the brass today.
Though this latest round of layoffs was reported concurrent to the meetings last week, the mandate to cut was apparently a recent decision.
One person inside the Times said that movie advertising this summer had failed to live up to the numbers produced a year ago, largely because many of the movies such as "Harry Potter" were so well-known studios didn't take out as much newspaper advertising. The thin editions that have become common for the Times are testament to this.
A Times spokesperson issued this statement: "As we continue to evolve our business and react to the difficult economic environment, we are downsizing in some areas and adding resources in others. Unfortunately, that included a small number of layoffs today."
TheWrap also got hold of the memo from the Metro editor who tried to a brave face on the depressing news:
"To those who are understandably feeling a bit down, I say: We don’t get our asses whipped, we whip asses. We don’t get ulcers, we give ulcers," wrote Ashley Dunn.
He instructed his charges to fall back on journalism habits that are as much of a throwback as reliable jobs and 401Ks. "Swig that Mountain Dew, suck deeply on that Marlboro Ultralight, tell your editor to move that fucking story," he wrote.
Meanwhile, a few staffers have also begun commenting about the departures on Twitter.
Entertainment and business reporter Ben Fritz wrote, “farewell emails are sad” while media columnist James Rainey added: "Sad to be getting another round of goodbye emails from LA Times colleagues today. Best wishes to some good people, moving on."
Rumors of layoffs began circulating last week, when LA Observed reported that the number cut could reach 60. Newspaper brass declined to comment on them at that time.
Rutten is one of the most respected writers at the Times, having just penned an op-ed about the mass killings in Norway. His bio on the site notes that his career as a journalist spans more than 30 years at The Times.
"Prior to becoming a columnist for the Calendar section in 2002, he held a number of positions, including city bureau chief, metro reporter, editorial writer, assistant national editor, Opinion editor and assistant editor for the Editorial Page. He started at the paper in 1972 as a copy editor in the View section," it reads.
Here's the memo:
Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 2:52 PM
As most of you have heard, there were layoffs today. We’ve all been through this before, but it doesn’t make it any easier. We’ll all miss the fine people who are leaving.
For those of us still here, the hard task ahead is getting back to the business of reporting the news. It feels like rushing back into battle after a hellacious ass whipping. To those who are understandably feeling a bit down, I say: We don’t get our asses whipped, we whip asses. We don’t get ulcers, we give ulcers.
Take a look at the Metro’s budget today. Nita is writing about Post Office closures and how people in towns and neighborhoods are taking it. Marosi is shining a bright light on the shitheads in the Sinaloa Cartel, and Ari is back with City Council as it wrestles with those damn red-light cameras. Don’t forget the fighting nudists of San Diego.
These are the great stories we do every day about our beloved city and state. We are kicking ass in our own modest way. Life is calling out for us to write, witness and be moved.
Deadline is coming. Swig that Mountain Dew, suck deeply on that Marlboro Ultralight, tell your editor to move that fucking story.
This paper waits for no one. Let’s get to it.
If you want to vent about the layoffs, plot strategy for the future or just shoot the shit about the old days, come on in.