LA Times Publisher Axed

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Jeffrey M. Johnson, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, was forced to resign by the Tribune Company, owner of the LA paper. Johnson had refused to make staff cuts ordered by the Tribune Company.

He is being succeeded by David D. Hiller, who has been publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the Tribune Co. said in a statement.

"Jeff and I agreed that this change is best at this time because Tribune and Times executives need to be aligned on how to shape our future," said Scott Smith, Tribune Publishing president. "We thank Jeff for his leadership of important advances at the Times and his significant contributions during his Tribune career."

Neither Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman nor Times spokesman David Garcia immediately returned a phone call seeking comment.

In a Web-posted story, the newspaper reported that Tribune had asked Johnson to resign and that Hiller was expected to ask Times Editor Dean Baquet to stay, despite the editor's own protests against further job cuts by the newspaper's Chicago-based parent corporation.

Times editorial staff had rallied behind Johnson and Baquet and sent a letter supporting them to Tribune executives.

Late last month, Tribune announced it would study the possible sale or breakup of the corporation, which owns the Chicago Tribune, KTLA-TV Channel 5, baseball's Chicago Cubs and other TV stations and newspapers.

The legacy media is crumbling.

UPDATE: WaPo: It's not fair.

The announcement stunned many staffers at the Times, which has chafed under out-of-town management since Tribune bought the Times Mirror chain, including the Times and nine other papers from Baltimore to Hartford, Conn., in 2000.

"The staff has no confidence in Tribune management to do what's right for journalism or the newspaper — none whatsoever," said William Rempel, the Times deputy sports editor. "They do not have any friends in this newsroom. They'd be booed out of the building."

"The mood is grim," said political reporter Mark Barabak. "A lot of us are sad and disappointed. Jeff took a very courageous stand and I'm sorry it turned out this way. It's great news that Dean is staying, but you have to wonder what message this sends that they fired Jeff after he took the stand he did."

Vernon Loeb, the California investigations editor, described the move as a "total shock," saying: "I saw Jeff Johnson as a New Age publisher who realized the future was about innovation and revenue growth. As he said, you can't just cut your way into the future. Now our future is uncertain."

They also described the outgoing publisher as a "folk hero" for refusing to bow to the cuts.

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