CEOs of Tribune Publishing are out after a series of controversies: NPR

Justin Dearborn, chairman and CEO of Tribune Publishing, and Ross Levinsohn, CEO of the company's interactive department, are following a series of controversies and a failed sale of the company.

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Justin Dearborn, chairman and CEO of Tribune Publishing, and Ross Levinsohn, CEO of the company's interactive department, are following a series of controversies and a failed sale of the company.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Top officials at Tribune Publishing, to whom the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun. and the New York Daily News, go after a wave of controversy. Those involved include the CEO of the news chain and the two highest representatives of his digital industry, according to a memorandum sent to employees by the new CEO, newspaper expert Timothy Knight, on Thursday.

"I know first hand that delivering quality, local journalism has never been more important," Knight wrote in his memo, announcing the departures. "I am determined to find the business models that fund our journalism."

Like many colleagues, the Tribune papers struggle to find a formula for success and have made repeated cuts under their current ownership. The recent history of Tribune Publishing includes a series of incidents in which executives have been charged with enriching themselves at the expense of their journalists.

Justin Dearborn served as Chief Executive Officer of Tribune Publishing in February 2016, on the orders of his longtime business partner Michael Ferro, who had taken a minority stake in the company just a few weeks earlier. Dearborn was appointed chairman early last year after Ferro had left a formal role in the face of a sexual harassment charge filed by two Fortune magazine women. The departure of Dearborn is effective immediately.

Ross Levinsohn, a former Advisor to Tribune Publishing, also became executive. In August 2017 he became publisher and managing director of the company's largest and most important real estate: the Los Angeles Times,

Levinsohn's digital strategy alienated his newsroom: he tried to rely on a fleet of external authors; Some would be unpaid or pay for the privilege of appearing under the company's newspaper brands. His election for editor-in-chief in Los Angeles drew fire in the newsroom, sparking a successful union organization. (This would stimulate Tribune's work in Chicago and Virginia, which also proved successful.)

And Levinsohn went on LA Timesnever to return after NPR reported that he had twice been sued for sexual harassment and testified under oath that he had rated the "severity" of female colleagues as a senior executive at a previous employer. Levinsohn was also lamented by people who were interviewed for this story, with an insulting remark about gays. (Tribune conducted investigation against the chief editor of the New York Daily News after NPR raised questions about complaints about its behavior. The editor, Robert Moore, and many others were soon expelled.

In February 2018, Ferro decided that Tribune would sell the company LA Times to one of the other important stakeholders of the company: Patrick Soon-Shiong, a multi-billionaire. (Tribune also sold The San Diego Union Tribune to Soon-Shiong.) The resurrected and newly independent LA Times went on a rental trip.

As part of this sale, the company announced that Levinsohn had been released from misdemeanor concerns and had been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Tribune Digital Publishing Division. Mickins Rosen, Levinsohn's deputy, had previously worked with him on several occasions. She too leaves the company.

Last month, NPR reported that Tribune Publishing had entered into a confidential agreement to sell US $ 2.5 million to Levinsohn's predecessor as publisher of the LA Times prevent an unlawful dismissal action. The lawsuit would have publicly exposed Ferro's anti-Semitic remarks made at a dinner with corporate executives. They were told to the NPR by two people who said they had been present that evening and heard them.

The company became known in the industry for its extremely generous compensation for its executives, notably Ferro (formerly Chairman), Dearborn and Levinsohn. The latter two received significant compensation of seven percent if the company was sold by the end of 2018. Tribune had asked for offers last year, including offers from the McClatchy news chain. Ferro and Tribune had sharply repelled earlier attempts by Gannett Co.

Now news reports say Tribune Publishing has been trying to grab Gannett's interest - even the target of a hostile takeover bid by a newspaper company controlled by a hedge fund known for cutting down its newspaper assets.

Tribune stays very much on the block.

Knight was the president of Tribune Publishing and helped lead the parent company to the United States Chicago Sun-Times when Ferro was the dominant owner of this tabloid. Former US Rep. David Dreier, a Republican from California, is the new CEO.