UPDATED THROUGHOUT: OK, so now Dean Baquet is supposed to be staying put. What an incredible gutless wonder! Shame on him. Really, Baquet’s seeming decision just shows he cares only about his own ass. Because clearly he’s still going to have fire all those staff asses. Unless, of course, he’s looking to stage some dramatic “pang of conscience” moment in the very near future for maximum publicity value. At least now journalism can stop characterizing him as “Dean of Arc” and start referring to him as he really is: “Cover-Your-Backside Baquet”. (Updates at LAObserved.com. See my Baquet’s Billionaire Boys Club.) First, the Chicago-based Tribune Co. this morning axed Los Angeles Times publisher Jeff Johnson and replaced him with Tribune toadie David Hiller, who’s long been tipped as the rising star/heir apparent of the Chicago-based media company. (To be fair, Hiller, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, is a great guy personally. But also very much of a company guy.) Now Baquet is reluctant to follow Johnson out the door. Where’s the loyalty? After all, “Dean of Arc” is in a pickle: if he doesn’t quit in solidarity with Johnson, who risked his job to support editor/exec v-p Baquet’s refusal to make those deep staff cuts, then Dean looks like a backstabbing weasel. If he does quit, then he’s unemployed, which is never any fun and especially not now given the lousy state of the newspaper industry. Situations where big papers need big editors simply don’t come along every day, as Baquet knows — though I’ve been hearing on the rumor mill that the rival NYT company would find him a high-profile post at a high-profile paper. Mentioned most frequently is the Boston Globe, but what about LAT alumnus Marty Baron? But this would keep Dean on ice until NYT exec editor Bill Keller is ready to retire. But then there’s Jill Abramson waiting in the wings… Ugh, this all makes my head hurt. The LAT own story says this today: “Hiller was expected to ask Times editor Dean Baquet to stay on the job, despite the editor’s sharp protests against further job cuts by the Chicago-based parent corporation. Friends of Baquet said the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist had not yet decided to remain with the paper.” And remember what I reported last month: that if Baquet leaves, then his trusted senior lieutenants — Doug Frantz, John Montorio and Leo Wolinsky — had agreed to quit on the spot. The trio had what’s being called a “suicide pact.” They felt that they owe Baquet this rather extreme display of their loyalty because he promoted them all in October 2005. (Frantz reportedly claimed today he won’t quit. Guess that means there’s more than one management gutless wonder on Spring Street.) I know that Baquet, before Johnson’s firing, had been seriously contemplating what he’d do if he left voluntarily or involuntarily. He’d said privately that, after working in journalism for 19 years, he’d take a little time, smoke some cigars, and finish reading a couple of books. But then he’d get right back in the saddle and find another newsroom job. Explained Baquet: “I had worked in my father’s restaurant in New Orleans, but I know they won’t take me back. That place doesn’t even exist anymore. Though my older brother does own a restaurant.” Sounds like a good honest move to me — but then so would Baquet loyally following Johnson out the door.
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