Newport, Laguna Independent publisher leaves

Tom Johnson, publisher of the Newport Beach Independent, said Wednesday that he was resigning because he had qualms about the way the weekly newspaper treated its advertising customers.

"There was some questionable handling of ad rates, offering one company a low rate and another a high rate," Johnson said. "I have a problem with that ethically. If it blows up, it's my reputation."

Johnson later clarified that the ad rates were for a sister publication.

Johnson, a former longtime publisher of the Daily Pilot, has been publisher of the Independent since its first issue came out in June. Johnson also served as publisher of the Independent's sister publication, the Laguna Beach Independent.

The papers are owned by businessman Allan Simon and his company, Firebrand Media LLC. Firebrand also publishes a slate of magazines and websites.

"It's all too complicated," Simon said of Johnson's departure. "Other than that, I have no comment."

Johnson said he has no plans to fade from the Newport Beach business world.

He said he'll continue working with veteran journalist William Lobdell, who writes a twice-weekly column for the Daily Pilot, and Independent Society Editor Lynn Selich on their shared company, Cat. 5 Communications.

Johnson also said he has an invention coming out next month and remains open to future print media opportunities.

The Independent has a circulation of 25,000 and is distributed every Friday in Newport Beach, Corona del Mar and Newport Coast, according to its website.

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