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LA Weekly Editor Plans to Move On

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a staff memo signed “Yours with terror, exhilaration and sorrow,” LA Weekly editor Sue Horton announced she will resign in November to take a journalism fellowship and research a possible book about teenagers.

No successor has been named.

“I love this paper, and it’s really wrenching to leave,” Horton said Tuesday. “But 6 1/2 years is a long time to do this job.”

She said the resignation was announced this week to allow plenty of time to find a good replacement.

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Horton, 45, a former journalism professor at USC, reporter and the author of “The Billionaire Boys Club,” took the top job at the alternative weekly in 1994 after the departure of Kit Rachlis over “editorial and managerial differences” with the publisher. Rachlis later became a senior projects editor at the Los Angeles Times and recently departed to take the post of editor in chief of Los Angeles Magazine.

During Horton’s reign, the Weekly became “both more traditionally political and more quirky, with cover stories that seem to come out of nowhere,” according to a recent analysis posted at Alternet.org, a Web site devoted to alternative media.

Under Horton, the Weekly now “offers probably the best labor union coverage anywhere in the country, along with a constant supportive ear to local activism, in sync with what the alternative press used to do well,” the Web site says. “But the big cultural thinkers and the sometimes grandiose efforts have long left the scene.”

Among her other accomplishments: The Weekly established its own book publishing arm and will be printing a daily edition during this month’s Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, a first for the paper.

Senior editor Judith Lewis, who has been at the Weekly nine years, said some staffers were near tears after receiving Horton’s memo on Monday. “She’s a wonderful editor. The Weekly has a chaotic history, but she built up a really healthy work environment. Her tenure has been very orderly but also really creative.”

Mike Sigman, president of the Weekly, said the paper is “the best it’s ever been” under Horton’s direction.

Not everyone agrees.

Ginger Varney, who helped found the Weekly more than two decades ago, said: “I think the paper’s been dull for years. But you never think anyone can do it as well as you did.” She conceded the 225,000-circulation Weekly is successful: “I sure see a lot of people reading it, so you gotta give them credit.”

Horton said the recent sale of the Weekly--which has been engaged in a circulation battle with another free publication, the 120,000-circulation New Times Los Angeles--played no role in her departure. The Weekly is part of a chain of alternative publications including the OC Weekly and the Village Voice in New York that was sold early this year to Village Voice Media, a group of investors led by the president of Stern Publishing, the chain’s previous owner.

“I had been thinking you can’t do this forever and then this fellowship came along. I applied on a whim and got it,” she said.

Horton is one of 13 journalists selected for the new fellowship program, offered by the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism. She will spend six months researching the ways that teens are “being increasingly demonized, criminalized and punished even though, by many standards, they’re better” than previous generations of teens.


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