LA Weekly is a free weekly alternative newspaper in Los Angeles, California. The paper covers Los Angeles music, arts, film, theater, culture, concerts, and events. LA Weekly was founded in 1978 by Jay Levin, who served as its editor from 1978 to 1991 and its president from 1978 to 1992.
|Owner(s)||Semanal Media LLC|
|Headquarters||724 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, California, 90014|
|Circulation||160,128 (as of 2016)|
The paper was founded in 1978 by Jay Levin, formerly the publisher of the Los Angeles Free Press. Levin was inspired to create LA Weekly by such alternative weeklies as Boston's The Real Paper and The Phoenix, and the Chicago Reader.
Levin put together an investment group that included actor Michael Douglas, Burt Kleiner, Joe Benadon, and Pete Kameron. The majority of its core of initial staff members[a] came from the Austin Sun, a similar-natured bi-weekly, which had recently ceased publication. Levin also retained many of the writers he had earlier brought to the Free Press, and hired Joie Davidow to edit the arts and entertainment section.
LA Weekly's first issue featured a group of female comedians, including the then-little known Sandra Bernhard, on its cover. Subsequent issues featured exposés on the Los Angeles basin's air quality and U.S. interventionism in Central America. The paper also quickly became notable for its coverage of independent cinema and the Los Angeles music scene. Davidow produced a comprehensive calendar section and explored undiscovered fashion districts, discovering new designers.
By 1990, LA Weekly had a circulation of 165,000, making it the largest urban weekly in the U.S.
Jay Levin stepped down as president in 1992 to pursue other ventures, and was succeeded by Michael Sigman as publisher and Kit Rachlis as editor.
LA Weekly was sold to Stern Publishing, owner of the The Village Voice, in 1994.
New Times Media acquired Stern Publishing (and LA Weekly) in 2004, assuming the Village Voice Media name in October 2005. At that point, Village Voice Media owned a chain of 17 alternative weeklies with a combined circulation of 1.8 million.
Some former employees complained about personnel moves after the sale. For instance, Harold Meyerson, once the Weekly's political editor, charged in a departing email to Weekly staffers in 2006 that the new owners had grafted a cookie-cutter template for editorial content onto the publication.
Belt-tightening in 2009 led to internal cutbacks, resulting in the paper eliminating the position of managing editor, letting go of several staff writers and other editorial department positions, as well as cutting the entire fact-checking department. New Times Media replaced news editor Alan Mittelstaedt with New Times LA editor Jill Stewart. Writers once closely associated with the Weekly but let go by the paper's management during that period included Meyerson, theater critic Steven Leigh Morris, film critic Ella Taylor, and columnist Marc Cooper.
Management said staff cuts were necessary owing to poor economic conditions. However, some of the cuts were likely attributable to philosophical differences with the paper's then-owners (who have since sold the chain).[b] Former staff writer Matthew Fleischer said at the time that "as part of the company's 'plug-and-play' management strategy, editors, writers, and ad directors were moved from city to city within the chain, without regard for local knowledge. Any old-school Village Voice Media manager who resisted the metamorphosis was denounced as a 'lefty,' a 'throwback,' and worse. They were fired or simply fled."
Despite this upheaval, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, and in 2009 broke the story of the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer. In the 2009 Los Angeles Press Club Awards, the Weekly won six first-place awards, including three by staff writer Christine Pelisek, who was honored as the city's best reporter in Investigative Reporting, Hard News, and News Feature.
In September 2012, Village Voice Media executives Scott Tobias, Christine Brennan and Jeff Mars bought Village Voice Media's papers and associated web properties from its founders and formed Voice Media Group.
The paper won journalism awards before and after this transition, with two of its news writers, Patrick Range McDonald and Gene Maddaus, winning the Los Angeles Press Club's nod for "Journalist of the Year".
In November 2017, the publication was sold to Semanal Media LLC, whose parent company is listed as Street Media. In December 2017, it was revealed that the new owners of Semanal Media LLC included "David Welch, a Los Angeles-based attorney with ties to the cannabis industry; philanthropist Kevin Xu, an investor with biotech firm Mebo International; attorney Steve Mehr; boutique hotelier Paul Makarechian; real estate developer Mike Mugel; and Southern California investor Andy Bequer", all residents of Orange County, California. The new operation manager was Brian Calle.
In 1979 the paper established the LA Weekly Theater Awards, which awarded small theatre productions (99 seats or less) in Los Angeles. In December 2014, LA Weekly announced that it was discontinuing the awards, citing the publication's desire to focus on events that would promote its profitability.
Since 2008, LA Weekly has hosted a food and wine festival, now dubbed The Essentials, that draws sizable crowds.
Some of the publication's best-known writers were Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold, who left in early 2012; and Nikki Finke, who blogged about the film industry through the Weekly's website and published a print column in the paper each week, leaving in June 2009 after the blog she founded, Deadline Hollywood Daily, was acquired by an online firm.
On June 1, 2009, the paper announced that Editor-in-Chief Laurie Ochoa, who began helming the paper in 2001 (before the New Times acquisition), was "parting ways" with the Weekly. On that same day, ads for her replacement appeared on Craigslist and JournalismJobs.com. Though some speculated that Jill Stewart was a shoo-in for the position, the job quickly went to Drex Heikes, formerly of the Los Angeles Times. When Heikes left in 2011, he was replaced by Sarah Fenske.
In 2009, former Los Angeles Times food writer Amy Scattergood became food blogger at LA Weekly's Squid Ink, and was later promoted to food editor. In late 2009, the paper hired Dennis Romero, formerly of Ciudad magazine, as a full-time news blogger.
In 2013, the paper named Amy Nicholson its lead film critic.
As of 2022, the Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director is Darrick Rainey, the Music Editor is Brett Callwood, the Culture & Entertainment Editor is Lina Lecaro, the Arts Editor is Shana Nys Dambrot and the Food Editor is Michele Stueven. The Publisher and CEO is Brian Calle.
For a time in the Los Angeles market, LA Weekly competed against two now-defunct publications: Brand X (a weekly published by the Los Angeles Times and produced by a crew that included former LA Weekly staffers); and LA CityBeat, a smaller alternative weekly newspaper owned by Southland Publishing, which ceased publication in March 2009.
...Stewart openly despised the Weekly. And let's be honest: the Weekly staff openly despised her. I don't think that is much of a secret to anyone in L.A. media circles. Putting her in the News Editor chair was like dropping a glowing load of Kryptonite onto the Weekly lunch table.
After almost 30 years, the Theater Editor position in a city with 2,000 professional plays opening every year was determined by Phoenix to be a fiscal extravagance