LA Weekly’s New Ownership Responds To Boycott Threats, Promises Improvements

UPDATE:  Responding to ill-will generated by firing most of the staff and threats of a boycott, the new owners of the LA Weekly have issued a statement promising to promote solid journalism and continued coverage of niche and under-served communities.

The owners generated controversy by not revealing themselves before firing most of the holdover staff after acquiring the publication. The new owners consist largely of attorneys and real estate developers whose conservative backgrounds has worried readers of a publication that is rooted in the alternatives to the mainstream. No replacement staffers have been named, and many writers for the publication were troubled by reports that reader-generated free content rather than paid staff would provide most of the publication’s reporting.

Los Angeles attorney David Welch, one of the investors and owners of LA Weekly, issued the following statement to Deadline:

Semanal Media Group is committed to preserving free press, and we are currently going through the process of hiring staff who are aligned with the ideals upon which LA Weekly was founded – covering issues that affect communities within Los Angeles, especially underrepresented communities, and even if those issues are controversial or widely criticized.

We understand that the recent acquisition of LA Weekly has had a profound effect on those invested in the publication and the community at large. The recent boycotts reflect the community’s concerns, and we are taking these concerns into account during this transition. We hope everyone will bear with us as we direct our focus to making improvements and working to help this beloved publication reach its full potential. This includes cancelling our Sips & Sweets event next week; we apologize for the inconvenience.

We look forward to fostering LA Weekly’s growth into a cultural cornerstone of the city.” 

EARLIER:  The LA Weekly, the largest weekly alternative publication in Los Angeles County, has finally revealed its new ownership team after weeks of speculation and online outrage.

In an online message from new operations manager Brian Calle, the backers were revealed to be a combination of businessmen and attorneys with little previous media ties. The issue of who owns the publication reached a head earlier this week, as most of the editorial staff was laid off by the publication. There has been no information on the new company since its Oct. 18 purchase announcement from previous owners Voice Media Group.

“There is a lot of talk about who owns LA Weekly,” Calle wrote in a blog post on the LA Weekly website. “We’ve seen all the speculation. Is it a Russian oligarch? Is it some Trumpista? Is it Lord Voldemort?”

Calle said the publication wants to make the property “the cultural center of the city.” Calle has no official title, but indicated he would act as publisher of the venture. He previosly worked for the Southern California News Group, where he was an opinion editor for the Orange County Register and 10 other daily newspapers.

Investors revealed in the web post include David Welch, a Los Angeles-based attorney with ties to the cannabis industry; philanthropist Kevin Xu, an investor with biotech firm Mebo International; attorney Steve Mehr; boutique hotelier Paul Makarechian; real estate developer Mike Mugel; and Southern California investor Andy Bequer.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley’s law school and a Constitutional law expert, will also be an investor. Others have indicated interest, but have not been formally tied to the new venture.

A team of new editorial hires is expected to be announced on Monday, although staffing levels will reportedly be below the previous numbers.


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