John Arthur, the executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, was let go this week. The editor, Russ Stanton, said in a memo "we differ on the best approach to reaching our goals." At least, he conceded, "this decision is a difficult one."
I don't know Russ Stanton. But I know John Arthur. And his departure is yet another nail in the coffin of the Los Angeles Times. The "velvet coffin"--a term used to describe the place in the 80's and 90's--has become a real empty coffin, just waiting for the body.
John and I worked together when he was editor of the Valley Edition of The Times, and I was its president. I've continued to keep track of his excellent work ever since. I count him as a good friend.
He is a journalist's journalist. Not flashy. Solid. Analytical. Aggressive, but thoughtful. The fact that the Los Angeles Times will no longer have him around to decide what news goes on the front page means that its readers will be short shrifted, and the reporters and editors there will lose a great mentor and teacher.
Perhaps it is inevitable, this continuing drain of top-notch talent out of the print newspaper business. But it's not fun to watch.