Beutner Takes Tribune Fight to Airwaves

Fired Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner took his fight with Tribune Publishing’s management to the airwaves on Thursday, firing off some pointed criticism and calling for local ownership of the newspaper during an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources.”

While delivered in the measured tones of a corporate presentation, there was no mistaking the bitter nature of the disagreement between Tribune and Beutner, who recalled hearing he’d been fired on the radio while driving into work. The ex-publisher, also former deputy mayor of Los Angeles, then seemed to write off Tribune’s ownership of the LA Times as a “lost decade” of shortsighted moves resulting in missed opportunities.

Asked about the substance of the disagreement, Beutner said: “I believe the foundation piece is the quality of the journalism and the independence, the autonomy of a local business to find its audience and market directly to that audience.”

Asked if Tribune didn’t believe that journalism and local connections played a key role, he replied, “You have to ask them.”

However when Stelter noted that another round of staff cuts was underway at LAT, Beutner said: “If you look at the last decade, call it the ‘Lost Decade’ of the Tribune Company, that strategy does not appear to be working… It’s clear that cuts alone are not the path to prosperity.”

Above all Beutner cast himself in the role of protector and advocate for journalistic integrity and local relationships: “At this point in time, my most important thing is to make sure the message gets out that it starts with the journalists, that we need local organizations. And that's a very different exercise than talking about whether there's a deal or not for the Los Angeles Times or the Chicago Tribune or any other news organization.”

But he left no doubt that he believes the LAT belongs in local hands: “I hope there is a solution, in the long term, where many organizations, not just the Los Angeles Times, are restored to their roots in the community.”

On that note, rumor has it that Beutner was fired, in part, for his support of Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad’s bid for the LAT. Newspaper analyst Ken Doctor told the Chicago Tribune he believes Broad and others are preparing to submit another bid by year’s-end.

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