Leader publisher resigns from post

BURBANK — Tom Johnson, general manager of the Times Community News division, announced his resignation last week a little more than two months after assuming the role of publisher of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press, Crescenta Valley Sun and La Canada Valley Sun.

Johnson said he made the decision to resign in response to the new direction of the community news division he’s worked for and helped lead for the last 17 years.

His resignation was announced in a staff memo July 29 at the same time the Los Angeles Times continued with additional rounds of staff cuts.

“You either go in a different direction you don’t believe in, or you go and remember the good things you did and how it showed,” said Johnson, who added he that had no intention of retiring, but had not yet decided on his next move.

In a staff meeting on July 30 with the newsrooms of all four area papers, John O’Loughlin, president of the Los Angeles Times’ Targeted Media Division, assured employees that the community news division — which includes three other newspapers in Orange County — was an important part of the company’s portfolio.

“We are going to be making investments here where it makes sense,” he said.

Although declining print advertising revenue has forced unprecedented staff reductions at the Los Angeles Times this year, executives said community and targeted news publications were performing strongly.

O’Loughlin also made it clear that, despite Johnson’s decision to leave, managers were committed to pursuing more Web-based services that would inspire more user-generated content and create more marketplaces, which, in turn, would fuel the success of local media.

“It’s about a vision for what the future of [Times Community News] will look like,” O’Loughlin said.

A replacement for Johnson will likely be named in late September as O’Loughlin evaluates the management structure of the community news division.

Johnson’s departure marks the fourth time in two years that the four papers have lost a publisher, either through attrition or promotion.

In May, former Publisher Gordon Tomaske was promoted to director of operations for the Targeted Media Division about a year after taking over for Elaine Y. Zinngrabe, who left in March 2007 for a position with The Denver Post.

She had been publisher for less than a year.

 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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