On Wednesday, Nov. 29, nearly the entire editorial staff sans one writer from long-running alt-paper LA Weekly was laid off after being bought out by new unidentified owners.
The move was unexpected and caught the staff off guard, a new trend by big business owners essentially dehumanizing journalists for the sake of, well, who knows? Even the LA Weekly remains in the dark.
This new startling trend adds LA Weekly’s corpse to a mountain of dead publications which includes the Gothamist and DNAinfo networks, which were unceremoniously axed after the New York sectors of the papers voted to join the Writers’ Guild of America East.
Recently, Gustavo Arellano quit his job as editor-in-chief of the OC Weekly after new owners stepped in and demanded he cut half his staff. He offered alternative options which included cutting his salary in half, but the owners remained staunch on their stance, and so did Arellano, who proceeded to walk away from the paper.
The common factor in all these media massacres? Big business.
OC Weekly was bought out by Irvine firm Duncan McIntosh Co., the Gothamist and DNAinfo networks by Ricketts, and LA Weekly by Semanal Media Group, which was formed only six months ago seemingly just to purchase the publication.
Which rings the question: why are alt-publications being bought out by big businesses?
For the LA Weekly, the question has yet to be answered.
According to the Los Angeles Times, documents filed with the California secretary of state’s office, the owner of Semanal appears to be David Welch, who works as a Los Angeles attorney, dealing with clients in the cannabis industry. Little else is known.
What is known, however, is that Semanal hired former chief of opinion for Southern California News Group Brian Calle to run operations at LA Weekly.
Calle has written for the OC Register, notably in a piece mourning his friend Tom Fuentes, whom Calle fondly refers to as the grandfather of the O.C. GOP.
In the gushy, heartfelt piece, Calle notes Fuentes’s numerous achievements in spearheading the GOP in Orange County, but failed to include the politician’s numerous controversies, which include setting up poll guards outside Latino-heavy areas in a 1988 election, which netted him and his cohorts $400,000 in a suit settlement after being sued for the heinous action, and his history of protecting pedophile priests, according to the OC Weekly.
It’s an odd move for the publication which lives and breathes in a heavily liberal city, which will now be run by someone in good standing with the types the weekly paper worked to expose.
What the motive is for the change in ownership and inhumane axing of an award-winning staff still remains a mystery.
What isn’t a mystery, though, is that hard-working and quality writers are now out of the job in a flash, without warning, blindsided by big business.
Calle recently wrote a piece for the newly owned publication, citing budget and declining revenue as the motive for change in ownership. But does that explain why its entire staff was cut and kicked to the curb without notice?
He claims to hope the weekly will push forward and remain the cultural hub of Los Angeles, but empty words have empty calories.
Surely, bigwigs like Welch and Ricketts hope these pathetic showings of big business will scare off new journalists and exhaust those working now.
But as a student journalist, I’m only invigorated. The heart and blood of local streets will be reported on, whether it be at the LA Weekly or a small-time blog. The news will come out, and big business can’t stifle that kinetic passion shared with many writers my age.
Is Semanal trying to suffocate local journalism? Are they trying to force their agenda on a typically liberal city? Or is it just business?
Business it may be, but maybe business is the problem.