Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet has ankled under pressure from newly installed publisher David Hiller.
Jim O’Shea, managing editor of the Tribune Co.’s flagship Chicago Tribune, will replace Baquet.
Before being named publisher of the Times last month, Hiller held that post at the Chicago Tribune.
In a memo he sent to the Times staff, Hiller said he and Baquet had significant disagreements about the paper’s strategy.
“When I came here four weeks ago, Dean Baquet and I agreed that we would work to get to know each other, for me to get to know the newspaper, and we would decide if we were on the same page in terms of the strategic and operating direction of the paper,” Hiller wrote. “After considerable discussion, we concluded that we have significant differences on future direction, and so Dean will be leaving.”
Baquet follows Jeffrey Johnson, whom Hiller replaced, in leaving the Times after resisting Tribune management’s calls for budget cuts in the newsroom.
Baquet and Johnson were both quoted in the Times arguing that budget cuts would hamper the quality of the paper. But in his memo, Hiller seemed to call for a stop to such public dissent.
“It is also important that all of us be aligned on how we will approach these needed changes,” he wrote. “Smart and reasonable people can differ significantly. Everyone gets to choose whether this is a direction they can support, and do so with excellence and passion. But decide we all must, because the last thing we can stand is confusion on our mission and objectives. It’s going to be hard enough as it is.”
Baquet announced his departure Tuesday afternoon. According to the Times, he told an assembled group of editors and reporters, “Just remember, it’s a great paper and it will stay that way.”
Baquet was named editor last year after John Carroll, the editor who hired Baquet away from the New York Times in 2000, complained about Tribune management’s future plans for the Times.
“It’s one more step toward reducing the Los Angeles Times to mediocrity,” Carroll, now a visiting lecturer at Harvard, told Editor & Publisher on Tuesday.
As recently as two weeks ago, at a meeting of the Associated Press Managing Editors in New Orleans, Baquet called on newspaper editors to resist corporate-mandated cuts.
“Sometimes when I sit down with editors and managing editors, I find them all too willing to buy the argument for cuts. We need to be a feistier bunch,” he said, according to the New York Times.
Baquet’s last day at the Times is Friday, with O’Shea set to start Monday.
The L.A. Times reported that Tribune had not planned to announce the move until Thursday. But news leaked out as the Times was covering one of the biggest news stories of the year — the midterm elections.
After news of the departure was made public, Baquet wrote in his own email to the Times staff, “Believe me, I didn’t want it to come out this way. And do me an even bigger favor. Let’s do a hell of a job on the election tonight.”
O’Shea first joined the Chicago Tribune in 1979 as a reporter, covering Washington and national security. He was upped to associate managing editor for foreign and national news, then deputy managing editor for news and finally managing editor in 2001.
He has penned two books, “The Daisy Chain,” about the savings and loan crisis, and “Dangerous Company,” about management consultants’ role in corporate decisionmaking.