Congressman Waxman Pleads: Don’t Kill the Los Angeles Times

California representative pens a letter of concern to the Times’ owner, saying he believes its parent company may not have the paper’s best interests in mind.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Dec. 19, 2013, 12:02 p.m.

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.

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