AN IMAGE MAKEOVER: Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton said Wednesday that the slicing of the newsroom is complete, with 135 editorial layoffs, slightly less than the 150 forecast. But the cost-cutting has hit an area of the paper initially seen as a mechanism for survival, or at least some ad revenue, one that includes the fashion-oriented Image section. Michalene Busico, the former New York Times dining editor who arrived at the Los Angeles Times six years ago to revamp its features sections, and who cocreated and oversaw Image, has been laid off, she confirmed to WWD. At its launch, Image was described by the paper as being “dedicated to SoCal’s unique perspective on fashion, beauty, shopping and style, and with an eye on the international scene beyond.”
The Times’ chief fashion critic and the editor of the Image section, Booth Moore, reported to Busico, whose title was deputy features editor. Busico said, “Booth is one of the finest editors and critics I have ever worked with; Image is in very good hands.” Seven editors and reporters currently work on the section, she said.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times Media Group has been developing a new lifestyle magazine, LA, to be launched in September independent of the newsroom. (The newspaper’s features section oversaw a magazine that was recently folded.) WWD reported last week that editor Annie Gilbar was hiring a staff with magazine and luxury industry backgrounds, such as former House & Garden editors Mayer Rus and Lora Zarubin, as well as celebrity stylist Lori Goldstein. There is little communication between the magazine and the Los Angeles Times newspaper, employees at both said. Early meetings were held in Gilbar’s home, according to people close to the project, and some staffers are working remotely from other locales. Earlier this week, the company issued a statement on the magazine’s hires, who also have included former In Style editor Robin Sayers as editor at large and veteran designer Rip Georges as creative director.
— Irin Carmon
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: Could a refinancing be in the works for American Media Inc.? The publisher has $400 million worth of bonds due to mature on May 1 and, despite a group of impatient bond holders, current market conditions aren’t exactly ideal for selling them. So what to do? Well, Dean Durbin, chief financial officer, said on a conference call Wednesday that for now the company is looking at all the alternatives and is “waiting out” the decision-making process. An executive from J.P. Morgan, also on the call, stressed that a debt-for-equity swap isn’t being actively pursued, although that is one option. Following the call, a spokesman added: “American Media is focusing its time on running the business, which includes reviewing our current capital structure and addressing near-term maturities. To that end, we are currently in discussions with our advisers regarding the possible extension or refinancing of the 2009 notes.”
Whether the long-suffering bond holders are receptive to that idea remains to be seen, of course.
The company’s conference call reviewed fiscal years 2007 and 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, ended June 30. On the call, Durbin noted that, given current market conditions, the sale of Country Weekly, Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers, Flex and Mira also has been put on hold.
As for the first quarter, AMI — like almost everyone else — reported softness in ad revenues, with total revenue down 1.9 percent versus the prior year to $119 million. Net income was $500,000, compared with a net loss of $100,000 last year. During fiscal 2009, the company projects cost savings of $21 million and revenue enhancements of $5.1 million, from additional issues and special-interest publications. Chief executive officer David Pecker said the company has begun a major marketing program and AMI is breaking new advertisers on a weekly basis — although he didn’t say whom. The company is marketing its health and fitness titles on the men’s and women’s sides together, and also is focusing on corporate sales programs with major advertisers.
— Amy Wicks