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Weekly Chief Fired; 5 Resign in Protest : Journalism: Publisher of alternative newspaper cites unhappiness with its editorial direction.


In a move that some insiders call the last blow to a 15-year L.A. tradition, L. A. Weekly editor-in-chief Kit Rachlis was fired this week, triggering the resignations of at least five of the alternative paper's best-known writers.

Weekly publisher Michael Sigman says the termination, which Rachlis officially announced at a Wednesday staff meeting, stems from "editorial and managerial differences."

Rachlis, who arrived at the Weekly four years ago from his position as executive editor of New York's Village Voice, says that Sigman told him "the gulf between my editorial sensibility and his, the way I ran it and the way he wanted me to run it, was too wide. . . . Among many things, he felt the paper was too intellectual, too serious."

The paper, 170,000 copies of which are distributed at about 3,000 restaurants, record stores and other outlets throughout greater Los Angeles, has recently returned to profitability and earned numerous journalism awards.

But staffers say that Sigman and president Gary Horowitz have been increasingly unhappy with the paper's editorial direction.

Staff writer and film critic John Powers, who was the first to resign, echoed a criticism made by several staffers of the paper's business managers: "They don't seem fundamentally interested in editorial content. I think this is part of the general movement of the so-called alternative press into the corporate press."

Responds Horowitz: "Management of this paper is absolutely committed to a strong alternative newspaper with the same kinds of politics the Weekly has always had."

Joining Powers in the exodus are film writer Steve Erickson; film critic Ella Taylor; Ruben Martinez, who had already accepted a new job with Pacific News Service, but will leave early "as a symbolic gesture of support;" and Michael Ventura, whose quirky and impassioned commentary has been part of the Weekly since its first issue in 1978.

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