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Changes Feared at Daily News

Staffers speculate that the editor and publisher may be ousted over their resistance to staff cuts.

October 07, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Tense talks over cost cutting at the Daily News of Los Angeles had staffers buzzing Friday about whether there might soon be changes at the top, prompting Editor Ron Kaye to send out a note to subordinates that said he would be back at work Monday.

Publisher Tracy Rafter did not return calls for comment about questions swirling around the newspaper's Woodland Hills office, including whether her job might be on the line as corporate bosses push for cutting the 150-person editorial staff.

The hubbub comes as Daily News executives reportedly met over thorny budget issues during the last two days with John C. McKeon, who in August was appointed president and chief executive of Los Angeles Newspaper Group, which owns the Daily News and seven other Southern California newspapers.

Newsroom staffers said Kaye and Rafter had raised concerns that cuts would hurt the ability of the newspaper to serve its readers.

The employees, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak for the paper, said Kaye had told friends that he would not rule out quitting if the cuts prevented him from doing his job.

Kaye, 65, described such talk as premature. "Things are up in the air," he said Friday, declining to comment further.

Some at the paper see Rafter and Kaye as in a similar predicament to that faced recently by Jeffrey M. Johnson at the Los Angeles Times. He was forced Thursday by Tribune Co. to step down as publisher after he had resisted corporate pressure to make cuts in the newsroom.

"We are all grappling to solve the same problems facing newspapers," one Daily News manager said.

Bryce Nelson, a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, said it was not surprising that tension was developing between corporate executives and newsroom leaders over how to deal with growing economic challenges.

"It's true all over the country that revenues are being threatened by the Internet and other sources, and all newspapers are scrambling to reinvent themselves," he said.

Nelson said it was encouraging that some editors were actively resisting pressure to make deep cuts.

"Those newspapers are cut to the bone already," he said of the publications in the Los Angeles Newspaper Group. "They can't be cut much more without affecting the quality of the product."

One theory in circulation in the Daily News newsroom Friday was that McKeon, most recently vice president for marketing at Knight Ridder Inc., might want to replace some Daily News managers with people he worked with at his last job.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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