Fired L.A. Times Publisher Goes Public: "Cost-Cutting Alone Is Not a Path to Survival"

Austin Beutner - S 2015
AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Kirk McKoy

Austin Beutner was abruptly fired by Tribune Publishing.

After abruptly being ousted just over a year into his tenure, former Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner has written an open letter addressing his dismissal.

The publisher, who stated that he wasn't stepping down by choice and already was locked out of his work email account, wrote a Facebook post hinting at the reasons for his firing.

"Cost-cutting alone is not a path to survival in the face of continued declines in print revenue and fierce competition in the digital world," Beutner wrote. "New sources of revenue will have to be developed and no single one will be the answer."

Under Beutner, the Times refocused its efforts on its local coverage and invested in new digital products. The publisher led the acquisition of the San Diego Union-Tribune for $85 million in May, solidifying Tribune as the dominant company in regional Southern California news.

Months earlier, the paper revealed plans for a stand-alone digital venture headed by Jose Antonio Vargas, entitled Emerging US, that would cover race and diversity. Recent high-profile hires have included Quartz editor S. Mitra Kalita as managing editor and Sasha Frere-Jones as cultural critic.

In print, the paper also revived its California section in the daily paper, reworked and redesigned its Business section and started a book club branded with the publisher's headshot. Beutner also has been aggressive about developing newsletters, like Essential California, to serve niche communities online. He touted progress there in his exit note.

"These verticals, or communities of interest, serve as the foundation of a plan to both identify a digital audience and generate revenue from these readers' deep engagement with our journalism," Beutner wrote. "In the digital world, more and more people are gathering their news and information from multiple sources. If the Times is to succeed, it must become very good at developing these verticals."

Timothy Ryan, publisher of the Baltimore Sun, will replace Beutner as publisher of the Times, the Chicago Tribune announced.