LA Weekly is a free weekly alternative newspaper in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1978 by Jay Levin, who served as president and editor until 1991. Voice Media Group sold the paper in late 2017 to Semanal Media LLC.
It covers Los Angeles music, arts, film, theater, culture, concerts, and events. In 1979 they established the LA Weekly Theater Awards which awards small theatre productions (99 seats or less) in Los Angeles. Starting in 2006, LA Weekly has hosted the LA Weekly Detour Music Festival every October. The entire block surrounding Los Angeles City Hall is closed off to accommodate the festival's three stages.
Some of its best known writers were Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold, who left in early 2012, and Nikki Finke, who blogged about the film industry through the Weekly's website and published a print column in the paper each week, leaving in June 2009 after the blog she founded, Deadline Hollywood Daily, was acquired by an online firm.
The paper was founded in 1978 by Jay Levin, who served as its editor from 1978 to 1991 and its president from 1978 to 1992. Levin put together an investment group that included actor Michael Douglas, Burt Kleiner, Joe Benadon, and Pete Kameron. The majority of its core of initial staff members came from the Austin Sun, a similar-natured bi-weekly, which had recently ceased publication.
Although some former employees have complained about personnel moves since the Weekly's parent company's acquisition by New Times Media in 2004 (which assumed the Village Voice Media name in 2005), the paper has won a Pulitzer Prize, and broke the story of the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer. Some of those disgruntled ex-employees complained when New Times replaced news editor Alan Mittelstaedt with New Times LA editor Jill Stewart. But in the 2009 LA Press Club Awards, the Weekly won six first-place awards, including three by staff writer Christine Pelisek, who was honored as the city's best reporter in investigative reporting, hard news, and news feature.
Harold Meyerson, once the Weekly's political editor, charged in a departing email to Weekly staffers in 2006 that the new owners had grafted a cookie-cutter template for editorial content onto the publication.
Writers once closely associated with the Weekly but let go by the paper's current management include Meyerson, classical music critic Alan Rich, theater critic Steven Leigh Morris, film critic Ella Taylor, and columnist Marc Cooper. Internal cutbacks have resulted in the paper eliminating the position of managing editor, letting go several staff writers and other editorial department positions, as well as cutting the entire fact checking department. On June 1, 2009, the paper announced that Editor-in-Chief Laurie Ochoa, who began helming the paper in 2001 (before the New Times acquisition), was "parting ways" with the Weekly. On that same day, ads for her replacement appeared on Craigslist and Journalismjobs.com. Though some speculated that Stewart was a shoo-in for the position, the job quickly went to Drex Heikes, formerly of the Los Angeles Times. When Heikes left in 2011, he was replaced by Sarah Fenske.
The management of LA Weekly said staff cuts were necessary owing to poor economic conditions. However, some of the cuts are likely attributable to philosophical differences with the paper's then-owners, who have since sold the chain. Former staff writer Matthew Fleischer said at the time that "as part of the company's 'plug-and-play' management strategy, editors, writers and ad directors were moved from city to city within the chain, without regard for local knowledge. Any old-school Village Voice Media manager who resisted the metamorphosis was denounced as a 'lefty,' a 'throwback,' and worse. They were fired or simply fled."
Since 2008, LA Weekly has hosted a food and wine festival, now dubbed The Essentials, that draws sizable crowds. In 2009, former Los Angeles Times food writer Amy Scattergood became food blogger at LA Weekly's Squid Ink, and was later promoted to food editor. In late 2009, the paper hired Dennis Romero, formerly of Ciudad magazine, as a full-time news blogger. Following the recession, in 2012, the paper added food critic Besha Rodell, a James Beard Foundation Award nominee and former food editor of Atlanta's Creative Loafing. Then in 2013, LA Weekly named Amy Nicholson as its lead film critic. In 2016, LA Weekly named multimedia journalist and Emmy-winning producer Drew Tewksbury as managing editor.
In September 2012, Village Voice Media executives Scott Tobias, Christine Brennan and Jeff Mars bought Village Voice Media's papers and associated web properties from its founders and formed Voice Media Group. The paper won journalism awards before and after this transition, with two of its news writers, Patrick Range McDonald and Gene Maddaus, winning the Los Angeles Press Club's nod for "Journalist of the Year".
For a time in the Los Angeles market, LA Weekly competed against two now-defunct publications, including Brand X (a weekly published by the Los Angeles Times and produced by a crew that included former LA Weekly staffers) and LA CityBeat, a smaller alternative weekly newspaper owned by Southland Publishing, which ceased publication in March 2009. Southland also owns the Pasadena Weekly, (helmed by veteran LA-area newsman Kevin Uhrich), The Argonaut on the Westside of Los Angeles, and other print products in Southern California.
In November 2017, the publication was sold to Semanal Media LLC. In December 2017, it was revealed that the new owners of Semanal Media LLC include "David Welch, a Los Angeles-based attorney with ties to the cannabis industry; philanthropist Kevin Xu, an investor with biotech firm Mebo International; attorney Steve Mehr; boutique hotelier Paul Makarechian; real estate developer Mike Mugel; and Southern California investor Andy Bequer", all residents of Orange County, California. The new operation manager is Brian Calle.
In August 2018, David Welch sued the other co-owners, alleging "they've pillaged the company."