- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The editor of the Los Angeles Times said he does not want to make any more job cuts in his newsroom, defying the newspaper’s corporate parent, which has asked for a budget-trimming plan.

Dean Baquet, who was named the paper’s editor last year, said in Thursday’s edition of the Times that he is not averse to making cuts, “but you can go too far, and I don’t plan to do that.”

“I just have a difference of opinion with the owners of Tribune about what the size of the staff should be,” Mr. Baquet said. “To make substantial reductions would significantly damage the quality of the paper.”

His move comes in the wake of a two-page letter of protest that was e-mailed to Chicago owner Tribune Co. earlier this week by a group of 20 civic leaders in Los Angeles. The group expressed concern that further staff reductions could erode the quality of journalism at the newspaper, and asked Tribune to put more money into the newspaper or sell it.

The group called itself the Civic Alliance and includes former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Scott Smith, president of the Tribune Publishing Division, said he welcomed the perspective of local leaders. He said the letter affirmed the stature of the West Coast newspaper and that it has only improved since the Tribune Co. bought six years ago.

But job cuts over the years have made for shaky relations between the Times and its parent company.

Mr. Smith had asked executives for a plan to trim their budgets but when he visited Los Angeles two weeks ago, no such plan was produced.

Mr. Baquet told Mr. Smith positions needed to be added, not cut, to cover local, national and international news thoroughly.

The fourth-largest newspaper in the country has eliminated more than 200 positions over the past five years, and the editorial staff has been whittled down to 940.

Mr. Smith said staffing levels were just one indication of a paper’s importance.

“There is a misperception that counting numbers of people is the right way to measure the quality of a great newspaper,” he said. “You are mixing quality and quantity.”

The showdown within the Tribune Co. is representative of other conflicts between newsrooms and boardrooms as newspapers face economic slumps.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, as well as other Tribune properties have announced buyouts and cutbacks over the past year.

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