Print media is hurting. Ad sales are down, subscription revenue is down, and the medium is adjusting to a world with much more competition for printing daily news. Fingers are being pointed in every direction as desperate business holdings hope to try to keep some papers profitable while others are going belly up, sending hundreds to the unemployment line every time. Some have called this is an inevitable shift, but that doesn’t help the many people who are hurting or out of work. Nor does it let management off the hook for contributing to the demise or struggles of certain properties.
Some leaders are suggested to be part of the problem. And then there’s the report that just dropped about Los Angeles Times editor-in-chief, Davan Maharaj. The report in question throws strongly-worded accusations toward Maharaj, alleging his personality issues – including ego and insecurity – as well as “warped priorities” have put the paper in a very rough position. Employees are upset, morale is plummeting and many seasoned staff are looking for work elsewhere.
The report was published in LA Magazine, and it blames Maharaj’s “tight grip on power” for the paper’s woes. Other accusations included a tendency to squat on stories, keeping them from the presses for no apparent reason whatsoever, as well as a tendency to talk down about employees behind their backs.
The report also taps into sources from inside the publication, who were eager to point out the self-absorbed foibles of their top editor, who reportedly wasted time in meetings “trying to redeem airline miles” or talking about his fancy shoes.
While lower level employees were happy to talk, top executives defended their chief. Meanwhile, Maharaj offered a brief statement in rebuttal to the story: “We are in very challenging times in the newspaper business. My job is to make sure we produce quality journalism for our readers. Yes, that means I have to make difficult decisions. Running a newspaper isn’t a popularity contest. We and I should be judged by the quality of our work, and by that standard the Los Angeles Times has done very well in the past five years. Our journalism speaks for itself, and it speaks loudly.”
There are many who would applaud Maharaj’s statement here. His job, after all, is to produce good content and steer the publication in a profitable direction … but where’s there’s smoke from the lower ranks, there’s often fire. He might be doing a good job based on his perimeters, but many leaders have failed to take stock of mutinies in progress … and they have paid the price for their hubris.