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SPJ: LA Weekly ownership should reveal identity


Rebecca Baker, SPJ National President, 203-640-3904, rbaker@spj.org
Andrew Seaman, SPJ Ethics Committee Chair, 570-483-8555, as@andrewmseaman.com
Anna Gutierrez, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, agutierrez@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – It is an absolute outrage that the public doesn’t know who owns LA Weekly. No media outlet should hide who its owners are, especially one of such prominence in America’s second-largest city.

The Society of Professional Journalists is committed to supporting a high level of excellence and responsibility among news organizations. Those traits must emanate from the organization’s ownership and begins with disclosure of their identities.

The Los Angeles Times reported in October that LA Weekly, an alternative paper in the city, was being sold to Semanal LLC, a company that was created for the purchase. None of Semanal’s backers were revealed at that time. David Welch, an attorney, was eventually reported as an investor. Brian Calle, a former opinion writer, also said in the press that he’d manage the paper’s operations.

The sale of the paper closed Wednesday and nine of the 13 editorial staff members lost their jobs, according to The Los Angeles Times.

SPJ is calling on the new owners of LA Weekly to disclose their identities and be transparent with their readers. The community and the nine people they fired deserve to know that information.

“In an era of rampant misinformation and distrust, it’s especially important that we do not allow the owners and backers of news organizations to remain a mystery,” said Andrew Seaman, SPJ’s ethics committee chairperson. “We cannot allow this to become the norm.”

SPJ’s delegates made a commitment to speak out in similar situations when a company backed by Sheldon Adelson and his family purchased The Las Vegas Review-Journal in late-2015 under the cover of darkness.

As SPJ made clear during the purchase of The Las Vegas Review-Journal, people have considerable justification to question the quality and value of the information provided by an organization overseen by a shadowy company of anonymous financial backers.

“There is no excuse for the owners of the LA Weekly to hide their identities, and they should be revealed immediately,” SPJ President Rebecca Baker said. “As SPJ has said before, to not reveal yourselves is to treat your readers with less dignity than humans deserve and with less respect than democracy should demand. It is appalling and offensive.”

The new owners of LA Weekly – and all news organizations – should be transparent about their identities. SPJ demands it. The public demands it. Democracy demands it.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.


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