Local

LA Weekly's new owners fire almost everyone. What's next?

Graffiti art on the LA Weekly building.
Graffiti art on the LA Weekly building.
A Syn / Flickr Creative Commons

LA Weekly's new owners didn't waste any time gutting the publication. On Thursday, the day after Semanal Media completed its purchase of the alt weekly, they slashed the staff, laying off nine of 13 editorial employees.

The axed staffers include editor-in-chief Mara Shalhoup, managing editor Drew Tewksbury, arts and culture editor Gwynedd Stuart, music editor Andy Hermann, food editor Katherine Spiers, longtime reporter Dennis Romero, film critic April Wolfe and multimedia designer Garry Santos.

Former editor-in-chief Shalhoup tweeted:

mara tweet

Publisher Matt Cooperstein and some employees on the business and marketing teams also lost their jobs, reports the Los Angeles Times.

What makes the situation more distressing, both for employees and fans of the outlet, is that no one knows who truly owns LA Weekly.

Previous owner Voice Media Group put the alt weekly up for sale back in January 2017.

Semanal Media, a private company created just to purchase LA Weekly, bought the outlet — but has never revealed most of its investors.

Only one of Semanal's investors is publicly known: CEO David Welch, a well-known marijuana lawyer.

Kevin Roderick, the founder and editor of LA Observed, questioned whether LA Weekly would be able to publish its next print edition with the staff cuts.

"The nature of these cuts suggests that there is another staff waiting to be brought in to run the LA Weekly, but we’ve yet to see who that might be," Roderick told KPCC.

Earlier this month, Semanal announced that Brian Calle will manage LA Weekly's operations. Calle is a former opinion editor for the Southern California News Group, which owns several newspapers and websites, including the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

LA Weekly was founded in 1978 and for years offered a punchier, quirkier, more aggressive voice in local news, arts and food coverage.

But the new media shift hasn't been kind to alternative weeklies. Many of them are floundering in the gap between vast, old school media outlets like the Washington Post and fully digital operations like Buzzfeed.

"We don’t know what the LA Weekly is going to be after this or whether it’s even going to continue to publish in print," Roderick said.

[Full disclosure: The writer of this story spent nearly two years as a restaurant critic and food writer for the LA Weekly.]