The new boss will not be the same as the old one: Austin Beutner, Tim Ryan
  • The new boss will not be the same as the old one: Austin Beutner, Tim Ryan
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Workers hunkered down in their warrens at the San Diego Union-Tribune reportedly didn’t see much of Austin Beutner, the paper's ex-publisher, whose unceremonious firing this week was accompanied by word that Los Angeles Democratic billionaire Eli Broad had made an offer to buy the struggling news operation and its L.A. sister, the Times.

Now they may be hoping that Beutner’s cost-slashing successor also treads lightly here, though that may be unlikely based on his East Coast history.

Ken Doctor

Soon after media writer Ken Doctor reported Beutner's ouster on Tuesday, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing announced it was shifting Tim Ryan, publisher of the company’s Baltimore Sun to the West Coast to assume command of its California News Group.

“It is a privilege to lead the iconic Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune,” proclaimed Ryan in a statement issued by the company.

“I am committed to ensuring that these brands continue their legacy of world-class journalism and grow their already-significant voices to drive deeper engagement with consumers and marketers across all platforms.”

But Ryan’s long track record of editorial cutbacks in Baltimore is already raising questions here.

On August 12, the Baltimore Business Journal broke the news of what turned out to be Ryan's last executive action at the Sun, folding the paper’s free weekly, a Gen Y–targeted tabloid called “b.”

"Though b remains a profitable and engaged brand with a loyal following, it has some overlap in audience and advertiser demand with our City Paper and Sun WKND section,” said a note from Ryan.

"Therefore, we have elected to cease publication of b, with its last scheduled publication date on Aug. 27. This change will also allow us to reposition our resources in order to enhance our portfolio. I want to thank everyone who played a role in the success of b."

A spokeswoman for the paper said the shuttering would result in no layoffs, though Ryan's history regarding the City Paper, a Baltimore alternative weekly acquired by the Sun last year, furnished little if any reassurance.

"Eight full-time employees of City Paper’s 25-member staff were laid off last week, including some who had spent nearly 30 years working for the alternative newsweekly," the Business Journal reported in March 2014.

"Which brings us to the second big question: whether City Paper’s edgy editorial content would change following the Sun's acquisition. The deal hasn’t closed yet — it’s expected to wrap up in mid-March — and already the paper is seeing some censorship."

According to the report, "The paper pulled a harsh Feb. 4 review of the recent Jason Aldean concert at the Baltimore Arena following pressure from two advertisers, Baltimore Arena and LiveNationDC."

...and jobs for some

In a bit of gallows humor, City Paper ran a February 26, 2014, cover resembling the Sun’s front page, with the daily's motto, "Light for All," replaced with "Jobs for some," alluding to the alternative's draconian staff cuts.

As it turned out, earlier this year City Paper was allowed to break the story of another round of departures of Sun staffers.

"Columnist Susan Reimer and feature writer Julie Scharper are taking voluntary buyouts from The Sun, and more journalists from the Baltimore daily may soon be joining them," revealed a June 18 blog item.

The post quoted a June memo by Newspaper Guild representative Alison Knezevich to Sun staffers, saying, "You have probably heard the news about layoffs at the Chicago Tribune, where 24 people were laid off yesterday, including 10 in the newsroom."

The note continued, "The Guild has not been given notice of any layoffs here at the Sun. However, in light of declining ad revenues across Tribune Publishing, the company told us today they may consider some buyouts for people who want to leave."

Reimer emailed City Paper confirming her buyout, and adding, "It is absolutely the truth that I would like to spend more time with family! I am indebted to The Sun for what I consider to have been a rich and rewarding career."

If similar cuts are in the cards for the Union-Tribune under Ryan, departing employees won't have the newspaper union here to help obtain their buyouts, thanks to a controversial figure in local media.

Karin Winner

In June 1998, Union-Tribune workers voted to decertify the Newspaper Guild, which then represented about 800 of the paper's employees.

Leading the anti-union drive for then-publisher Helen Copley was U-T editor Karin Winner, who took charge of distributing enticements including free admission tickets to the U-T’s corporate box at Padres games, where free food and booze were reportedly served to wavering workers.

Winner, who left the paper as editor when it was taken over by Beverly Hills–based Platinum Equity, is cofounder and chair of Inewsource, the nonprofit online news operation affiliated with San Diego State University, which recently won the latest round in a court duel over the group's connections to the tax-backed institution.

Meanwhile, layoffs at the Los Angeles Times under Ryan’s rule are said to be rapidly approaching.

"Times staffers are bracing for a prolonged round of layoffs and buyouts that are likely to target at least 50 positions, sources with knowledge of the situation said," according to Politico, which adds that ex-Obama White House aide Johanna Maska, brought in as a marketing vice president by ousted publisher Beutner, has already hit the bricks.

The Politico blog item carried word from unnamed sources that Beutner was fired because he was suspected of trying to engineer a buyout of the Times and U-T by billionaire Democrat Eli Broad, long a political power player in both cities.

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Comments

Visduh Sept. 10, 2015 @ 4:16 p.m.

While I think it has already happened at most papers, more layoffs from already-decimated news staffs will surely mean that many events and happenings that should be reported will just be missed, ignored, or suppressed. One major story from last week, the new Doshay case charges, didn't appear in the U-T at all. Was it missed? Could be. Ignored? Less likely. Suppressed? Well, the Doshay dad is a rich guy with influence, and he might have managed to keep the story out of the paper. (Thank goodness we have the Reader.) At some time this slash-and-burn of news staffs has to stop, or the papers will be out of business. Um, I think I just made a prediction.

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dwbat Sept. 10, 2015 @ 5:56 p.m.

I'm still baffled why Tribune Media bought the old U-T. And they definitely overpaid for it.

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AlexClarke Sept. 10, 2015 @ 6:06 p.m.

Because Manchester was better at the art of the deal that they were. The only ones that will suffer will be the workers as always.

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monaghan Sept. 10, 2015 @ 6:38 p.m.

From Reader reportage, it seems that Influential Angeleno Austin Beutner may have encouraged Tribune's purchase of the San Diego Union-Tribune and joining the two most powerful papers in SoCal nto a single entity. Beutner then became publisher of both. But he was also a Dem Angeleno friend of billionaire Dem Angeleno Eli Broad who was waiting in the wings to make a lowball offer for the two journals -- just in time for the 2016 presidential coronation of Hillary Clinton. Newspapers are one arena that Broad hasn't ventured into, after having done his Developer thing, his Public Education Reform thing, his Art Museum thing. But somebody less Dem and more GOP back in Chicago's always- conservative Tribune headquarters may have gotten wind of this Dem coup d'etat and pulled the plug on both Beutner and Eli Broad.

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MichaelValentine Sept. 12, 2015 @ 11:24 a.m.

Working in the newspaper print industry must be like working in a buggy whip factory a hundred years ago.

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monaghan Sept. 10, 2015 @ 6:04 p.m.

No, there will be no Newspaper Guild to protect U-T reporters if there are cuts under new publisher Ryan, thanks to Karin Winner and the late Helen Copley. But editor Jeff Light will be there to speak up for his people, and maybe that will help.

As for the LA Times, its entire editorial staff sat on their hands in August when brilliant and funny editorial cartoonist Ted Rall was unceremoniously sacked and publicly accused of lying about an ancient jaywalking ticket. A possible reason? Rall regularly had targeted the LA Police Department whose union pension funds turned out to be heavily invested in one of parent Tribune's holding companies. So if some of those lily-livered newsroom bozos are axed by Ryan, I personally will believe they had it coming.

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badcyclist Sept. 10, 2015 @ 8:06 p.m.

The LA Times is a shadow of the paper it was ten years ago. But over the last few months the Union Tribune was actually getting close to being worth the price of the paper it was printed on. It looks like the outlook is pretty gloomy for both papers, which is a crying shame.

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Visduh Sept. 10, 2015 @ 9:07 p.m.

You might find, if you look, that all the big city daily papers are shadows of what they were ten years ago. The Light News has been through it because of what it was for decades before. I, being the plutocrat that I am, have read Barron's for the past decade or two. It is a shrunken caricature of what it once was. I keep it coming out of nostalgia and the fact that it costs about only $1 a week.

Want more news than you can possibly digest? Go for The Economist, which calls itself a newspaper, but which is a weekly magazine. Costs about $3 a week. Or find it at your local library.

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Ponzi Sept. 11, 2015 @ 7:06 a.m.

Hmm. I also get Barron's, The Economist (every Saturday), the LA Times, SDUT and two other publications; Psychology Today and The Futurist. The last two are bimonthly.

The Economist is my favorite because of the perspective of being a UK publication.

Interesting what we folks read.

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dwbat Sept. 11, 2015 @ 7:24 a.m.

I subscribe to WIRED, but to no newspapers or journals.

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Ponzi Sept. 11, 2015 @ 7:48 a.m.

WIRED is something I enjoy too. It just gets to the point where I cannot keep up with the reading. WIRED has good stories.

You probably know this, but it's worth mentioning that Chris Anderson, the former Editor-In-Chief of WIRED founded 3D Robotics, a quadcopter (drone) firm here in San Diego, TJ & Berkley. I speculate it may be the first consumer quadcopter firm to go public the way it's growing.

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dwbat Sept. 11, 2015 @ 8:14 a.m.

No, I didn't know that. I haven't written any pieces for WIRED for many years now, so don't know any of the editors.

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Ponzi Sept. 11, 2015 @ 7:52 a.m.

I have to spill the beans on one thing about the LA Times. I subscribed in 2011 when I received a Groupon offer. It was $20 for Thursday through Sunday delivery for one year. They have honored that price since then. I figure back then they were trying (again) to penetrate the San Diego market and I am another number in their circulation figures. It's a good paper, but very much "LA" type stuff; Image, movie industry, the business section is half absorbed with what celebrity bought what celebrities home. It has better international and national coverage than the SDUT. But if I had to pay more, I wouldn't take it.

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dwbat Sept. 11, 2015 @ 8:19 a.m.

I only read the LA TIMES online (until they cut me off after awhile, and ask me to subscribe). I have to admit I enjoy the "Hot Properties" column, esp. about the celeb home flippers who are making big bucks doing that.

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Ponzi Sept. 11, 2015 @ 10:29 a.m.

If you use the Google Chrome browser "incognito" feature, you can usually get around the problem of the site cutting you off after so many views. Or find the cookie that they use and delete it.

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dwbat Sept. 11, 2015 @ 7:10 p.m.

I usually just switch to Firefox, and continue reading it from there.

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monaghan Sept. 11, 2015 @ 10:53 a.m.

My god, the Reader readers don't read regular newspapers and if they do, it's by the subterfuge of deleting cookies. Barron's, WIRED?

The LA Times is still a great newspaper, even if diminished from its glory days -- Lazarus and Hiltzik are distinguished business section columnists -- and Jeff Light is looking like a brilliant editor at the Union-Tribune to have survived the turmoil and salvaged some excellent reporters and columnists.

Let us think good thoughts for all of them and subscribe to their journals! Please! Should they disappear, we will be in a terrible, even worse place than we already are: a city whose Mayor Sunny is going to run for re-election unopposed.

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dwbat Sept. 11, 2015 @ 7:13 p.m.

I READ newspapers (and magazines), but I personally don't subscribe to any besides WIRED (which I got at a steep discount via "Citi Deals").

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Twister Sept. 12, 2015 @ 12:42 a.m.

Back in the seventies I pitched the idea of a San Diego edition of the Times. It folded (no pun intended) after a few years. They weren't interested in the details, and I continue to maintain that the whole concept of how a newspaper is put together and run needs to be overhauled, especially in the Internet Age. The potential of the actual medium has yet to be realized, and the mess has gotten into even more of a tangle than when it started. I don't know if the obvious ever will hit them.

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dwbat Sept. 12, 2015 @ 7:42 a.m.

Remember, large companies generally do NOT like ideas (or criticism) from the outside. It's the "not invented here" (NIH) attitude, which reflects corporate arrogance. More recently, Haggen was publicly warned that their huge jump into the supermarket wars was very risky. Of course, the company didn't listen.

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Twister Sept. 13, 2015 @ 5:55 p.m.

You're right, bat. The Times didn't try hard enough to capture the San Diego market. And they put third-string reporters down here, some of which are still hanging around.

When you're going to penetrate a new market, you've gotta dive in head first, put your first-string staff into it, get all prices down and lose money for a couple of years, and saturate, saturate, saturate!

Tw

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monaghan Sept. 25, 2015 @ 3:29 p.m.

I thought the cadre of LA Times reporters working on the too-brief San Diego edition was superb: notably Patrick McDonnell who covered the Mexican migration here before the Wall was built. These days he is based in Beirut, Lebanon. Only one Sunday ago he had a Page One story with photographs describing Syrian refugees crossing the Aegean Sea in rubber rafts from Turkey to Greece and moving on foot to the West. Chris Kraul, a former business writer, is now based in politically volatile Venezuela. John Glionna, based in Nevada, covers the inter-mountain Western US, including stories about armed TeaParty freeloaders who run their cattle on federal BLM lands. There were others too, but these are survivors of great changes in their business. Anyway, I appreciated the LATimes back then and I appreciate it now.

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monaghan Sept. 12, 2015 @ 2:10 p.m.

How Haggen with 18 stores in northern Washington State could come down to SoCal and make a dent in this huge and competitive market is a mystery to me. I would love to shop some other place than gigantic, confusing, cluttered, expensive Von's, but Haggen's chapter 11 bankruptcy may preclude my taking the plunge into the new and unknown.

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dwbat Sept. 12, 2015 @ 8:17 p.m.

Discount supermarket chain Aldi is coming in March to SoCal. Will they get their clock cleaned like Haggen? The big grocery boys play rough here.

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Visduh Sept. 13, 2015 @ 9:45 a.m.

Aldi is already here. Never heard of them? Aldi owns Trader Joe's.

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Twister Sept. 13, 2015 @ 5:45 p.m.

I guess I was either misinformed or am out-of-date--I thought Trader Joseph's was a closely-held German company. Or was it bought out by Aldi?

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dwbat Sept. 13, 2015 @ 8:27 p.m.

Checked Wikipedia: German company Aldi bought Trader Joe's sometime back. Aldi is a huge company overseas.

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Visduh Sept. 13, 2015 @ 8:47 p.m.

Corporate forms are different in other countries. My take and many others in the business press is that Aldi is that closely held company and is a family trust. But it is same the entity, and it owns Trader Joe's. With a success story like TJ's in place, Aldi won't go sprawling the way Tesco (the UK's largest food retailer) did with Fresh 'n Easy. In fact, I predict that in five years there will be a much different approach to food retailing in the west, and that many old and familiar players will be mere memories.

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dwbat Sept. 14, 2015 @ 8:10 a.m.

I think you're right! By the way, I have a Prime Pantry shipment arriving from Amazon today via UPS. Delivery was only six bucks, and I'm still saving money.

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