L.A. Times Fired Top Editor After Management Battle Over Budget

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The Los Angeles Times fired its top editor after he rejected a management order to cut $4 million from the newsroom budget, 14 months after his predecessor was also ousted in a budget dispute, the newspaper said Sunday.

James O'Shea was fired following a confrontation with Publisher David D. Hiller, the Times reported on its Web site. The story didn't say when the confrontation took place.

"The Los Angeles Times, like all newspaper companies, is facing major challenges in charting a course that will be successful for the future. The path ahead is going to be difficult and requires that our people and our organization be aligned behind what we need to do," Hiller said in a statement. "As a result of these changes, Jim O'Shea will be leaving the Times."

O'Shea's departure comes just a month after the Times' parent, Chicago-based Tribune Co., was taken private in an $8.2 billion buyout by real estate magnate Sam Zell.

The departure also follows that of his predecessor, Dean Baquet, who was forced to resign after he opposed further cuts to the newsroom budget in 2006.

O'Shea, then the Chicago Tribune's managing editor, was brought in to replace him.

At the time, he asked the news staff not to see him as "the hatchet man from Chicago" and promised to fight to ensure the Times would "remain a major force in American journalism."

"If I think there is too much staff I will say so," O'Shea told the paper's editors and reporters in 2006. "And if I think there is not enough I will say that, too."

O'Shea is the third Times editor to leave the newspaper since 2005, all of them departing in disputes with management over how much to cut the news budget.

When Editor John Carroll left in 2005 he was replaced by Baquet, who was then the Times managing editor. Hiller, former publisher of the Tribune who had worked with O'Shea in Chicago, then brought him out to replace Baquet.

Hiller had joined the Times in 2006 after former Publisher Jeffrey M. Johnson was ousted for refusing to carry out budget cuts ordered by corporate headquarters in Chicago.

A month later, Hiller dismissed Baquet and brought in O'Shea to replace him.

Before coming to the Times, O'Shea had been managing editor of the Tribune since February 2001 and had worked at the newspaper in various capacities since 1979.

Before joining the Tribune he had been a reporter, editor and Washington correspondent for the Des Moines Register.

The Times is just one of many newspapers plagued by circulation and revenue losses to new media.

Last April, the Times announced it was cutting up to 150 jobs, including 70 newsroom positions, as a result of declining revenue. Times officials said at the time they hoped to accomplish most of those cuts through voluntary employee buyouts.

When he took over Tribune, Zell said he hoped to find ways to increase the company's revenue, calling continued budget cuts a "dead end." At the same time, he said he was giving greater authority to regional executives to manage the company's assets in ways they saw best.