The editor former editor of L.A. Weekly, Laurie Ochoa, took over the paper in 2001 voicing her dream of turning America’s largest metro weekly into “a New Yorker.” She leaves today with the Weekly reduced to little more than a Pennyshopper.
The official statement from “corporate” is that she and the paper will now “part ways.”
It’s rather obvious that Laurie was pushed out by chain owner Mike Lacey who showed up in the office today, took her to lunch and returned to tell an editors’ meeting that Laurie is gone now. (Hat tip to Goodfellas).
The miracle is that she lasted the nearly four years since the Weekly was taken over by the New Times chain which since changed its name to Village Voice Media. It’s been pretty nuch a non-stop massacre of the paper ever since the “merger” (I was cut in November, thank God and wrote this lengthy obituary for a paper that was no longer).
A lot of us scratched our heads for a couple of years wondering why they hadn’t axed Ochoa. Whenever you catch Lacey in a sober moment, you might ask him. My theory is rather simple: the L.A. Weekly was the one property that had the potential to rebel against Lacey’s takeover. Laurie, to her credit, tried to protect as many people as she could from the constant downsizing and trashing of the product. To accomplish that end, she avoided any open conflict with her bosses.
This was, of course, a double-edged sword. Ochoa’s effort to salvage what she could from the fiasco also allowed her to keep the peace for the company while the paper continued to make money for the chain. But now with profits down and virtually everyone from the Old Guard axed out of the paper, Ochoa’s time (and serviceability) had expired.
Her exit pretty much forecloses any possibility of anybody “slipping in” any truly worthy copy into the Weekly. The search for her replacement is now supposedly open, but everyone knows that real power at the Weekly is now in the hands of the dubious Jill Stewart (about whose egregious non-talents you can read in my obit linked above). The paper is merely a wrapper, patiently awaiting its final edition (which can’t be more than a year or two from now — on the outside).
Ochoa is a friend. She’s a fine and compassionate and wholly decent person with a great passion for good writing and she richly deserves this liberation from New Times Hell. She will be fine. The city will be a little worse off.
What does continue to amaze if not slightly nauseate me is the continuing silence of the L.A. Times on the slow and marked decline, and effective death, of L.A. Weekly. Media writer James Rainey has not touched the subject even though there has been one upheaval after another at the Weekly for the last 4 years. I have constantly prodded him to do so…to no avail. And while he has publicly twisted his knickers several times over the future of print journalism, it doesn’t seem to occur to him that the Weekly just might have something to do with that subject! As late as last Friday, just hours after the top editor and the top three writers of Los Angeles Magazine had “parted ways” with their own respective management, Rainey published a school–marmish rule book on when it’s OK (with him) for media to out gay politicians (yawn).
So with the two most important outlets for L.A. writers and journalists (beyond the LATimes) decapitated in the same week, does anyone want to bet that the Times will get around to noting any of this? Maybe it will. But talk about late to the party! If the Times had given any sort of fair report to the butchering going down at the Weekly, it might have roused some public pushback against VVM managment. But that’s if you believe the Times had any interest in helping to secure the life of any print pubnlication except its wilting self.
Good luck, Laurie. And congrats on being sprung from that hell hole. Anything will be better,
P.S. The only suspense left in the Weekly story (apart from its final pub date) is the fate of Ochoa’s husband, Pulitzer-Prize winning food writer Jonathan Gold. There’s been some speculation that Jonathan is headed for the NYTimes but without any confimation. There’s always been those who thought that Lacey kept Ochoa around, precisely, to retain Gold on staff. But I don’t think so. Because I don’t think that Lacey’s crew gives a damn about anybody — Pulitzers or otherwise.
P.P.S. There’s one more dangling piece of suspense I forgot to mention. Namely, what will Jill Stewart’s NEXT job be after the Weekly formally folds. A betting pool anybody? Here’s the earlu line direct from the Palms Sports Book:
1) a corproate henchman for the company, flying from state to state to terrorize the newbie hires replcing the revilved Christine Brennan. Odds 6 to 5.
2) A hired flack for some sad sack local reactionary pol…Dennis Zine? Odds 2 to 1.
3) A bag lady 4 to 1
4) A regularly published columnist and journalist 175 to 1.