Another Editor Out At L.A. Times, Ouster Follows Dwindling Circ., Ad Sales

After the relatively brief tenure of a little more than a year, Los Angeles Times Editor James O'Shea has been shown the door, executives with the paper said Sunday. O'Shea is the fourth high-level employee to leave the company in less than three years. He joins former publisher Jeffrey Johnson, fired in October 2006 for refusing to make staff cuts, and his predecessors in the editor spot, John Carroll, who quit in 2005, and Dean Baquet, fired at the same time as Johnson.

O'Shea, previously the managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, was sent by Tribune Co. to fill the empty editor's seat in November 2006, but failed to revive the struggling paper during his 14-month stint -- an especially daunting task as the newspaper business in general suffers an ongoing secular downturn.

According to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Los Angeles Times saw its average Sunday circulation fall about 5% from 1,172,004 in the six-month period ending September 2006 to 1,112,165 in September 2007, compounding serial losses in previous years.



Although separate ad revenue figures aren't available for the paper, its poor performance certainly impacted the Tribune Co.'s bottom line; in the third quarter of 2007, the most recent for which figures are available, in which advertising revenues fell 9%. Tribune executives placed a large part of the blame on declines in retail and classified advertising in California.

O'Shea was apparently dismissed by publisher David Hiller at the behest of the parent Tribune Co. It's unclear whether Sam Zell, the company's new owner, had anything to do with the decision. Some observers expressed surprise at the firing, citing comments made by Zell in April 2007 that were widely interpreted as a promise to end newsroom layoffs.

However, Zell never made any such promise, or even an implied promise: he simply said he would leave personnel decisions including layoffs and firings to Tribune's CEO and board of directors.

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