Local journalism is under attack.

In cities across the country, alt-weeklies and local news outlets are being purchased by millionaires or shut down entirely—a threat both to voices that have defined local culture, and to our country’s democracy.

In Los Angeles, LA Weekly, once the nation’s premiere alternative newspaper, was purchased and immediately gutted by its new owners, Semanal Media, who have replaced a portion of the editorial board with staff from the OC Register. A shadowy consortium of conservatives from Orange County, Semanal is comprised of at least a dozen wealthy men who have built their careers in Republican think tanks, and funded candidates that include Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and Dana Rohrabacher.

Until Semanal’s purchase of the paper, LA Weekly spent 40 years building its reputation as a bastion of progressive values and civic life. The paper produced Jonathan Gold, the only food critic to ever win the Pulitzer Prize; provided the investigative journalism that helped bring down the South Los Angeles serial killer known as “The Grim Sleeper”; and regularly published a popular column penned by punk legend Henry Rollins (Rollins ultimately resigned in protest over the new owners).

Upon assuming control in November 2017, Semanal fired every editor at LA Weekly and all but one writer. Since then, they’ve lied to the public about everything from their pro-life, anti-union and pro-private prison leanings, to making the bizarre claim (on live radio, no less) that no former staffers were fired.

Semanal’s staggering litany of ethical misdeeds began with an initial refusal to reveal their identities. They’ve since purchased hundreds of thousands of bot followers on social media to dupe advertisers, falsified datelines of stories, busted the paper’s union, plagiarized former writers and replaced fired staff and freelancers with non-local writers and editors with minimal connections to our city.

One of the known (Orange County-based) investors said in an interview that Los Angeles “doesn’t have a cultural scene on par with New York and San Francisco."

As a result, LA Weekly's new owners have shown nothing but contempt for the city they claim to serve and have has wholly abdicated their responsibility to provide investigative journalism, substantially reported news, and coverage of Los Angeles culture.

A healthy alt-weekly is vital to any region. It uncovers local political scandals, exposes singular ethnic cuisines to the world and contextualizes local artists. But since last year, local journalism around the country—from New York to Houston to Atlanta to Los Angeles—has withstood unremitting attacks.

Now, with right-wing proxies controlling LA Weekly, the paper has become a shell of its former self, and stands to become actively dangerously pushing propaganda under the cover of legitimacy its name confers.

Without a strong and free press, the notion of an objective truth becomes imperiled. Political corruption is given cover to run rampant, while clickbait and mistruths stand to overshadow the coverage required to be an informed citizen. This isn’t hyperbole; this is a national and local crisis. Whether you’re progressive or conservative, cosmopolitan or rural, impoverished or wealthy, these consequences affect us all.

Let Semanal Media know they’re not welcome in L.A. and that our residents will not tolerate anything less than a strong and free press by the people and for the people.


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