Los Angeles’s food media coverage took a major blow yesterday when it was announced on Twitter that LA Weekly’s new owners laid off nearly all of its staff. Only one staff writer remained while all the editors, notably food editor Katherine Spiers, were removed from their posts rather unceremoniously. LA Weekly’s former owner Voice Media Group put the paper up for sale earlier this year and a mysterious, unknown entity named Semanal Media bought the publication in mid-October. The sale of the publication was finalized yesterday, hence the staff cuts.
The paper’s top editor Mara Shalhoup, who was also let go, had to to individually notify each of the editors who lost their jobs. She gave a loving tribute to each section chief and the paper as a whole on Twitter, which has been producing local and investigative coverage since 1978.
The food section in particular helped develop Jonathan Gold, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2007 while he was writing reviews for the LA Weekly. Current LA Times food section editor Amy Scattergood also worked at LA Weekly as its food editor, and former LA Weekly restaurant critic Besha Rodell only just left the alt-weekly in September of this year to relocate to Australia. She was the last full-time restaurant critic for the Weekly, has gone through a parade of guest critics after her departure.
Both Rodell and Jonathan Gold offered their condolences on Twitter:
I'd be lying if I said that fear/likelihood of something like this wasn't a motivating factor in my move. But never in my wildest pessimistic dreams did I expect this level of stupidity and cruelty. My heart aches for my friends, and for LA.— Besha Rodell (@BeshaRodell) November 30, 2017
Devastated to hear about LA Weekly, which for so long was at the center of my world.— jonathan gold (@thejgold) November 30, 2017
Eater reached out to Katherine Spiers regarding to yesterday’s layoffs. According to Spiers, new owners Semanal Media never spoke to the employees, as Shalhoup was the one who delivered the news to the staffers. In Spiers’ opinion, the layoffs were handled horribly, and she’s uncertain what will happen to the publication’s food coverage at this point. The Weekly had been responsible for producing up to ten stories a week in the food section online, with a heavy presence in the print edition as well. Right now, no one knows who will fill that void.
Shalhoup told the LA Times last night that she couldn’t have imagined the staff cuts would’ve been this aggressive: “To have such deep, devastating cuts — it’s beyond anything we could have ever fathomed.” Earlier this month, Semanal’s incoming manager David Calle told the Times he wanted the Weekly to be the “cultural center of the community,” and would offer some staffers jobs once the sale became finalized. The only staff writer retained is Hillel Aron.
Hilariously, late last night someone who still had access to LA Weekly’s content management system published an article titled, “Who Owns LA Weekly?” The post contends that “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.”
The article, written by Keith Plocek, the director of digital content for Voice Media Group, goes on with this sad, final word.
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?