The purchase of alternative newspaper LA Weekly by a group of mostly conservative investors, and the subsequent massive staff reductions, have caused outrage and conspiracy theories from former writers and editors.
Most of members of the group of California-based investors Semanal Media LLC behind the controversial purchase of L.A. Weekly hold right-leaning political views, an inside source told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The publication was “f***ing broke” and on the verge of bankruptcy, making the purchase necessary for the long-term viability of the paper, the source said. The previous owners, the liberal Voice Media Group, had cut pay for its writers and contributors over the years. Its circulation has shrunk by a quarter from a high in 2000 to 60,000 today.
LA Weekly’s new operations manager Brian Calle, a former columnist at the Orange County Register and “free-market enthusiast“, named the investors Dec. 1, but he did not elaborate on their political dispositions. It was later revealed that five of the investors had donated to Republican politicians.
Calle did not return calls for comment.
One of the initial investors, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley’s law school, has since reneged on his pledge to invest in Semanal Media Group, citing concerns about the group’s political views.
The same source, a self-identified progressive, also said the paper had become “a progressive activist organization” since President Donald Trump’s rise in U.S. politics. Nearly all of its former staff members have publicly attacked the president or the Republican Party on social media.
LA Weekly had always been considered liberal, but its left-wing editorializing has grown increasing hostile to conservatives. An article from September gives readers advice on how to “thwart” the president’s plan to end DACA.
Shortly after the purchase was announced, a former editor of the paper, Mara Shalhoup, tweeted that nearly the entire staff had been fired, sparking rumors that the terminations were politically motivated.
April Wolfe, the former lead film critic, asked if the owners will “weaponize the newspaper.”
Despite the political leanings of the new owners, there are no planned editorial changes given the fact that Los Angeles County is overwhelmingly liberal, which would make rebranding useless, according to the source.
Nevertheless, former writers and readers took to social media with their opinions about the motivations of the new buyers. A “BoycottLAWeekly” hashtag began trending on Twitter.
Former writer Jeff Weiss gave the following statement to TheDCNF when asked about Semanal:
While I disagree with the politics of the men who purchased the LA Weekly, if they had conducted themselves in a professional civil manner that showed respect and admiration for good journalism, the city of Los Angeles, and what the LA Weekly had built over the last 40 years, none of this would be happening. Everyone understands that plenty of intelligent conservative people have owned publications and respected traditional divides of editorial and business, but nothing in these men’s history or recent behavior leads us to believe that that would remotely be in the case.
Weiss called Calle a “coward,” “a fraud,” and attacked his political affiliations in a tweetstorm on Monday:
The calls for a boycott and claims that the staff firings were political in nature have been at least partially effective thus far. Leaked e-mails provided to the Los Angeles Times show that some advertisers are terminating their relationships with the paper.
A protest outside the LA Weekly offices are planned Friday.
The selling of LA Weekly follows a number of recent changes in the nation’s media landscape, including the shuttering of DNAInfo, Gothamist, and the selling of Time Inc. to a Koch brothers-funded organization.
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