“Why bother to even learn their names anymore?” That’s what one Hollywood mogul said when I informed him that Sam Zell’s Los Angeles Times has forced out Leo Wolinsky after only 7 months as John Montorio’s replacement. This means the newspaper will need to name its 3rd associate editor in charge of entertainment, cultural and life-style features at the paper, including Calendar, since Zell took control. I’ve said it before so I’ll say it again: I never thought much of Wolinsky because, in his previous incarnation as one of the LA Times‘ managing editors, he met secretly with a lot of possible purchasers of the paper back when the top editors (all gone now) were bickering with Tribune Co. As I first reported, Wolinsky, acting as then editor Dean Baquet’s surrogate, played a dangerous game with the paper’s integrity by having secret talks with the “billionaire boys’ club” — David Geffen, Eli Broad, ex-mayor Richard Riordan, and others — to drum up support for a local buyer of the LA Times. (Geffen in September 2005 invited Wolinsky to his Beverly Hills estate, and together they discussed Geffen’s buying the paper with Baquet’s blessing.) But Wolinsky himself refused to confirm or deny or even discuss the meetings with me. I found it bizarre that both Wolinsky and Baquet were blind to the obvious need for transparency. I then thought a top editor who likes to suck up to rich people would be a godsend to the Hollywood moguls when it comes to Calendar coverage of their studios and networks. Wolinsky leaves behind an incredibly unhappy showbiz staff. A lot of people are looking to bail. Meanwhile, insiders say as many as 75 editorial positions throughout the paper are being cut through voluntary departures, threatened firings, and forced layoffs.
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