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OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano resigns from alt-weekly newspaper in dispute over cost cuts

OC Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano resigns from alt-weekly newspaper in dispute over cost cuts
Gustavo Arellano is no longer editor of OC Weekly after a disagreement with its owner over staffing. (Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times)

Longtime Orange County columnist, government watchdog and foodie Gustavo Arellano said Friday that he has voluntarily resigned from his role as editor of alternative weekly newspaper OC Weekly.

In an interview Friday on the Tom Leykis Show, Arellano said he was told by the paper's owner to cut half the staff, and he refused. OC Weekly now has nine staffers in the editorial department.

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Arellano said that in September he gave the paper's owner an alternative plan that would not involve layoffs. He offered to help sell ads and even cut his own salary in half.

In his proposal, Arellano said his resignation would be effective Oct. 13 if Irvine-based Duncan McIntosh Co. Inc. didn't like the plan.

Last year, Voice Media Group sold OC Weekly to Duncan McIntosh, which publishes nautical magazines such as Boating World and Sea. Terms of the deal were not disclosed at the time.

When Arellano didn't hear back about his plan, he approached the owner Thursday and was told to attend a meeting Friday morning, where he received his final paycheck.

"They're claiming we're not making the money we used to," Arellano said on the show. "The thing I told them is, no newspaper has ever cut their way to profitability."

Arellano said he asked for, but did not receive, financial figures. He said that historically, OC Weekly always finished the year in the black.

Jeff Fleming, OC Weekly's vice president and general manager, described Arellano in a statement as "the ambassador and face of OC Weekly" and said he would be missed.

In the same statement, Duncan McIntosh, the paper's president, said OC Weekly's editorial staff and budget "have remained virtually unchanged for a decade" and that editorial expenses "consistently exceeded" the set amount.

McIntosh said Arellano was asked to come up with a new plan with a reduced budget, "the workings of which were totally left to his discretion."

Arellano started freelancing for OC Weekly in 2001 while attending Chapman University in Orange. He gained national recognition with his syndicated column, Ask a Mexican. The column plays off white Orange County residents' stereotypes of their neighbors, answering questions in an often irreverent style. (Two recent entries: "Why Do Mexicans Customize Their Trucks So Ugly?" and "How Mexican Should I Allow My Adopted Mexican Son to Be?")

In 2011, Arellano became editor of the alt-weekly, which is known for challenging powerful county officials and close coverage of the local food scene. He is the author of "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America."

Arellano said his column could not continue in its current form because OC Weekly owns the copyright to its name, but said he would continue answering questions from readers on the Leykis show, on which he regularly appears.

Arellano was temporarily suspended from Twitter earlier this week after trading insults with another user. However, Arellano said that wasn't a factor in his departure and noted that his plan for the paper pre-dated that incident.

The newspaper will now be headed by Nick Schou, the paper's managing editor, Arellano said.

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"As long as Nick Schou and the team is there, the paper will continue to do the great work it has done," he said. "If the current ownership is smart, they will keep the current staff as it is."

Twitter: @smasunaga

UPDATES:

6:05 p.m.: This article was updated to include a comment from Duncan McIntosh, OC Weekly's owner.

This article was originally published at 4:55 p.m.

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