The Los Angeles Times, like many big news organizations, is cutting hundreds of jobs. The move has been distressing to journalists, readers and, most recently, a congressman.
Henry Waxman, a Democratic representative for California's 33rd district, expressed concern Thursday about the future of the country's largest metropolitan daily newspaper in a letter to the head of its parent company, the Tribune Company.
"I am writing on behalf of my constituents who rely daily on the Los Angeles Times for their national news and local reporting," Waxman wrote to Tribune president and CEO Peter Liguori. "I am concerned that corporate actions the Tribune Company is taking may not be in the best interests of the Los Angeles Times."
The letter detailed the number of layoffs the newspaper has seen each year since 2010, complete with footnotes for the statistics. The most recent layoff announcement came this November, when Tribune said it would slash 700 jobs at the Los Angeles Times over the next year, representing a 6-percent reduction in its staff.
Last week, Tribune began preparing to spin off its entire newspaper unit and require it to pay the company a cash dividend. The unit includes the California newspaper, which must now pay the corporation rent for the publication's own building. This development, Waxman wrote, means "the difficulties faced by the Los Angeles Times may get worse."
The congressman knows that editorial staff cuts have become commonplace at U.S. newspapers to offset yearly revenue losses. However, this specific case seems fishy to him. "The requirement that the newspaper unit go into debt to pay a cash dividend to the Tribune Company will undoubtedly enrich the Tribune Company, but it may do so at the expense of the financial health of the Los Angeles Times," he wrote, noting that some have described the Times' rent requirement "as tantamount to 'life as a corporate orphan.'"
Waxman closed his inquiry with a request to meet with Tribune officials. The congressman may not have the bulging wallet and entrepreneurial know-how of Jeff Bezos, but he appears to be ready for battle to help save his hometown paper.