The media today: Newsroom chaos comes to a head as LA Times names new EIC

A tumultuous start to 2018 for the Los Angeles Times continued last night, with news that veteran journalist Jim Kirk would replace the embattled Lewis D’Vorkin as the paper’s editor in chief. The New York Times’s Sydney Ember broke the story, noting that “the leadership changes are the latest twists in an ongoing drama at the Times, which already this year has dealt with a successful unionization vote, a leave of absence for its publisher and a swelling sense of mistrust in its newsroom.” According to Ember, D’Vorkin will become chief content officer for Tronc, the Times‘s parent company.

His removal from the Times’s newsroom comes days after CJR published a critical profile of a man who was described, even by someone who “actually likes him,” as “without journalistic merit.” For CJR, Lyz Lenz dove into D’Vorkin’s past work at Forbes, where he prioritized clicks over meaningful journalism. The fact that the story was shared by several Times journalists on social media didn’t bode well for the relationship between staffers and management.

RELATED: The LA Times has a hit

The ongoing drama was heightened on Friday, when HuffPost’s Ashley Feinberg, Dave Jamieson, and Matt Ferner reported that Tronc is building a “shadow newsroom,” whose new hires were part of a parallel structure and not actually employed by the same company that employed all of the other editorial staffers at the LA Times. The strategy was cast as a way to work around the newly unionized Times newsroom, with some positing that it was an attempt to centralize national reporting at all Tronc papers, leaving those journalists already working the beat to question their futures. “The newsroom has basically become a large-scale intelligence operation to figure out what the fuck our managers are up to,” one current Times employee told HuffPost.

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Meanwhile, the architect of that strategy had been suspended. Following allegations of workplace misconduct in an NPR exposé, Times Publisher Ross Levinsohn was placed on leave pending the results of an outside investigation.

RELATED: Newspaper staffers push back against their paper’s publisher

Even for a paper that has become accustomed to management shake-ups, the early days of 2018 have been unmooring. Last week, national correspondent Matt Pearce, who helped spearhead the unionization push, summed up the feeling in the newsroom: “Basically at this point, anything could happen at the L.A. Times and people in the newsroom could only be half-surprised by it.”

Below, more on the tumult at the Times and some additional notes from last night’s news.

  • Must read: NiemanLab’s Ken Doctor had the news at almost the same moment as Ember. His analysis of what’s going on at the LA Times is insightful.
  • Union statement: The new LA Times union congratulated Kirk on his position, adding “we look forward to hearing his plans for the paper.
  • Kirk’s winding path at Tronc: Kirk has bounced around since being hired by Tronc last August. He was briefly interim executive editor of the LA Times after former EIC Davan Maharaj was fired. Earlier this month, he was appointed interim editor in chief of the New York Daily News. The latest shake up means that Tronc will need to name yet another leader of the NYC tabloid.
  • Backpedaling: Tucked within Ember’s piece was the news that Louise Story, who had been hired as a managing editor, has decided not to join Tronc.
  • Newsroom in chaos: Before the change at the top of the masthead was announced, The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported on how the paper became its own story.

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Other notable stories

  • The New York Times’s buzz-worthy story on the buying and selling of social media followers is worth your time. The piece names names of public figures, including journalists, who have bought followers in an attempt to boost their profiles.
  • Texas Monthly staffers reached out to CJR’s Alexandria Neason with concerns about the magazine’s editor in chief seeming to suggest at a staff meeting that the he had entered into a partnership with Bumble, the popular woman-centric dating app, to promote an upcoming cover story. “When the prowl for clicks becomes transactional, journalism runs into problems,” Neason writes.
  • For The Washington Post, T.A. Frank makes the case that the rise of Trump, which shattered the image of GOP consensus, has ushered in a “golden age” for conservative magazines.
  • CJR’s Karen K. Ho provides an addendum to all the praise The Indianapolis Star has received for its reporting on Larry Nassar. Ho writes that the Orange County Register’s Scott Reid has been uncovering abuse in gymnastics since 2004. If people had really started to take a hard look, that was 13 years ago, then I think a lot of this would have been avoided,” Reid tells her.
  • Asia’s strongmen are taking a page out of Donald Trump’s media-bashing playbook, writes CNN’s Euan McKirdy. “The rhetoric is morphing into action, with arrests of journalists and the shuttering of news sites across the region,” McKirdy reports.
  • For The Atlantic, David Beard looks at how libraries around the country are helping fill the local news void. “Library-backed efforts can help restore the foundation and appetite for local news—the love of community, curiosity about it, confidence to participate in it,” Beard writes.

From archives: “Journalistic carelessness caused the project to backfire, and thus miss its target”

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.