LA Weekly fired nine of its 13 editorial staff, including all five editors and all but one staff writer, on Wednesday following its sale to Semanal Media, a newly created company. All the nine members of the editorial staff have been dismissed with immediate effect.
The five editors who have lost their jobs include managing editor Drew Tewksbury, music editor Andy Hermann, food editor Katherine Spiers, arts-culture editor Gwynedd Stuart, and editor Mara Shalhoup. Publisher Matt Cooperstein, too, has lost his job. LA Weekly’s staff writer Hillel Horowitz, along with creative director Darrick Rainey, copy chief Lisa Horowitz, and listings editor Falling James, have not been fired by Semanal Media.
On her Twitter feed, Mara Shalhoup described the staff culling at the Los Angeles-based alternative newsweekly as “Red Wedding,” a reference to the Game of Thrones’ iconic bloody massacre at a wedding feast.
She told the Los Angeles Times, “To have such deep, devastating cuts — it’s beyond anything we could have ever fathomed.”
Film critic April Wolfe, who was also fired on Wednesday, said on Twitter that she was “pretty sad.” She also found it weird that Semanal Media had fired enough staff to pull the plug on a union.
In January, Voice Media Group announced that it was putting LA Weekly, a “profitable” publication, up for sale. And ten months after putting the alt-magazine on the market, the company said that it would sell it to Semanal Media. According to the Los Angeles Times, as the new owner is only buying LA Weekly’s assets, it will not be bound by the union contract.
A couple of weeks ago, Brian Calle, who will be managing LA Weekly’s operations for Semanal Media, had said that the new ownership and management would not change the “editorial bent” of the newsweekly, the Los Angeles Times reported. He had also said that Semanal Media would offer to “hire some current LA Weekly employees.” On Wednesday, Brian Calle confirmed the sale but refused to provide details about the deal or editorial plans.
There is much suspense surrounding LA Weekly’s new owner Semanal Media, a company reportedly established for the sale purpose only. The identities of the company’s financial backers and executives remain a mystery. David Welch, a Los Angeles-based medical cannabis attorney, is said to be one of the investors — or likely representing the company’s silent partners.
LA Weekly’s site is also asking the question, “Who Owns LA Weekly?” Besha Rodell, the former food critic at LA Weekly, shared the article on her Twitter feed, saying that it was perhaps the last reason why anyone would visit the site.
Keith Plocek writes in his pithy piece that readers deserve to know who owns the magazine, as the new owners are hiding from them and don’t want to know their identities. He also questions why the new owners fired nine journalists.
“The new owners of LA Weekly don’t want you to know who they are. They are hiding from you. They’ve got big black bags with question marks covering their big bald heads.
These new owners just laid off nine hardworking journalists. Why? For sport? To start anew? To fulfill a blood vendetta that is centuries old?
Maybe they have a good reason. Maybe they don’t.
We don’t know. You don’t know. No one knows but them.
Who owns this publication?
It’s a fair question.
Who is benefiting?
You deserve to know.
Who owns LA Weekly?”
Meanwhile, the firing of the nine editorial staff by LA Weekly’s new owner has sparked backlash on social media. Some believe that that there is something “shadowy” going on because the mysterious buyer fired the editorial staff immediately after the sale closed.