L.A. Times axes last employee
Alleged newspaper will be written by a computer software program. CEO Zell orders downtown headquarters converted into a 'gentleman's club' to maximize the property's value.
By Ray Jimney, Staff Writer
For the 23rd time in 18 months, the Los Angeles Times is losing its top editor. Raul Jones, a former newsroom janitor who rose through the ranks as layoffs shrank the number of real journalists, was fired yesterday after refusing to lay off the paper's last employee – himself. LA Times building 
In a blistering farewell
e-mail sent to himself, Jones defended his stance against further cuts. "I had to draw the line," he wrote. "It's one thing to sack everybody else, but I can't countenance my own dismissal. Who's going to cover city and state government, the war in Iraq and Britney Spears? The quality of the paper will suffer."

But Tribune Co. spokesman Randy Michaels said the paper would do just fine, thanks to sophisticated new software that rewrites wire-service stories in the style of former Times reporters.

"We analyzed past articles and found that 38% of all stories began with the writer mentioning the time of day," Michaels said. [Click here for recent examples.] "Our new software will duplicate that formula."

Mark Willes As Michaels spoke, cleaning crews swept through the Times' newsroom, removing cobwebs and tearing down Xeroxed portraits of former publisher Mark Willes, whose smiling face had been plastered all over the building by reporters nostalgic for the "good old days."

Removing editor Jones wasn't easy. Because he was the paper's last employee and wouldn't dismiss himself, Tribune executives had to find a replacement editor from Chicago who was willing to can Jones and then promptly resign.

Alan Vootie of the Chicago Tribune obliged. "The L.A. Times is a great newspaper, and I look forward to making it even better," Vootie said at a press conference after taking the reins from Jones. Seconds later, Vootie fired himself, saying, "Look, we have to be realistic here. Ad revenues have tanked and we need to make cuts to turn things around. Everyone knows top editors are just window-dressing anyway."

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