LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles Times has fired another editor for resisting budget cuts that would reduce the size of the newsroom. James O’Shea was fired over the weekend, the fourth top editor ousted in three years for refusing to fire reporters, and a sign, perhaps, that Sam Zell, the owner of the Times’ new parent company, the Chicago Tribune, may not be willing to follow through on his promise not to cut staff as a way to improve earnings, or another sign of the effects of the real estate crisis on the Times’ revenue – or both.
The Times’ previous publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, and its editor, Dean Baquet, were fired in 2006 for resisting budget cuts and newsroom firings. John Carroll, who preceded Baquet as editor, quit in 2005 to protest newsroom firings. The Times also lost two editorial page editors in short order, Michael Kinsley and Andres Martinez.
Newspapers nationwide are earning slimmer profit margins than they did before the rise of Internet advertising, when profit margins for dailies often approached 20 percent.
Old-time newsies insist the corporate drive for ever-larger profit margins is driving dailies into a death spiral, in which cutting costs to improve profits reduces quality, which cuts into circulation, which reduces ad revenue, which results in more cuts, in an ever-shrinking spiral.
Housing ads are a mainstay of newspaper revenue, and the housing market in Southern California has been particularly hard hit. Zell, who became CEO of the Tribune empire in December, made his fortune in real estate.