LA Times defies Tribune by refusing to lay off staff

LONDON - Jeffrey Johnson, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Dean Baquet, LA Times editor, have refused to lay off staff at the paper on the orders of bosses at parent group the Tribune Company, sparking a rebellion between title against its parent company.

Johnson, who was summoned to the Tribune Company headquarters in Chicago yesterday, said a temporary understanding with his employers had been reached, and that neither he nor Baquet were about to be sacked -- at least for the time being.

It is understood that more than 400 of the LA Times' 940-strong editorial team have signed a letter backing Johnson's defiance, indicating that the dispute is unlikely to be resolved soon.

It is not the first time that Johnson and Baquet, who joined the title last year, have clashed with bosses at the Tribune Company.

Johnson and Baquet were forced by the Tribune Company last year to make $10m in cuts including 85 job losses at the title. It is understood that expenses for 2007 will not be raised, despite a $3m increase expected next year.

Although the exact number of staff cutbacks is not known, according to sources close to the LA Times, the figure is likely to be "in the region of several dozen".

The rift comes at a torrid time for the Tribune Company, which was told this week by its biggest investor, the Chandler family, that they wished to end financial ties with the company, which owns 11 newspapers and 25 broadcast businesses including the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel.

Some media analysts in the US have speculated that the LA Times, the fourth largest newspaper in the US, has become too big for its parent company, and that the Tribune Company "don't really know how to handle it" any more.

The Tribune Company is also under pressure from shareholders to increase its stock price, and the Chandler family have expressed anger at the way its investment is being managed.

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