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Feb 24, 2012 10:53 AM

Jonathan Gold to L.A. Times - again!

Mrs. O just sent me a link to one of a series of recent online articles about how Pulitzer-winning L.A. Weekly food writer Jonathan Gold was offered, and has accepted, a job at his old alma mater the L.A. Times. The article is here:


According to one of the previous articles, when the Village Voice people (who currently own the Weekly) heard about the offer, they suddenly found some extra money they'd not mentioned before and attempted to throw it at Mr. Gold, but he had apparently accepted the Times' offer. Word is that he will continue writing about food and restaurants, but will be contributing other editorial material as well. Nice to see that; he's a fine writer, and the Times can always use more of those.

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  1. I'm conflicted about this. On one hand, JG will get a larger audience and be able to spread the gospel to a wider crowd, at the same time, there's something icky about going to a big conglomerate, especially one that is about to charge readers for online access. I really like the independent spirit of the weekly also although I don't think the times will necessarily change JG's voice. I don't fault him though, he's got a family to take care of.

    5 Replies
    1. re: chezwhitey

      First I must reveal that the Times is where a family member has been working for many years on a contract basis. So we tend to think of the paper not as the corporate entity which owns it, but as an aggregate of the very good people they have working there. However these people regard their corporate masters, they have a lot of respect, generally well-deserved, for each other. They take journalism very seriously there, and I think practice it better than is common at most other papers I've subscribed to. J. Gold was there many years ago, has many admirers there and probably quite a few friends as well.

      While we're discussing "big conglomerates", Village Voice Media ain't exactly the corner store. And when they bought the L.A. Weekly, one of the first things they did was fire the long-time editor, who happens to be married to Mr. Gold … not wanting to read too much into this, but I'd lay some money on the notion that he was just waiting for a good excuse to leave, and a better place to land.

      1. re: Will Owen

        Fair enough, but how much is VV/La Weekly charging for it's hard copy and it's internet content?

        I don't doubt the integrity of the Times, I read it all the time because I like their slightly liberal slant compared to my current hometown paper, the San Diego UT. I loved Gold's counter intelligence column when he used to work for the times, I just think "independent" papers give their writers a bit more leeway with word count and subject matter. I think Gold was perfect for the Weekly, but as I said before, I don't begrudge him for doing what's best for him and his family.

        1. re: chezwhitey

          There is also the fact that Mr. Gold is not getting any younger, nor are his children. Even if he has signed onto a sinking ship, it's a widely respected one, and (as has been demonstrated by many former Timespeople) a good place from which to step further. Most of all, I'm guessing from his standpoint, it's a good place to do good work. That freedom the indies offer is too often license for a less rigorous sort of journalism; I would never accuse him of practicing that, but I might of some others, and we are known largely for the company we keep.

      2. re: chezwhitey

        Village Voice Media (LA Weekly's parent) and the Tribune Company (LA Times) each own 12 newspapers. Tribune is a larger organization with more diversified holdings, but neither the Weekly nor the Times is independent.

        1. re: Papuli

          Village Voice Media isn't some small, meek business. When it entered San Francisco, it boasted about its 'deep pockets'- money which was coming from its chain of out-of-state media properties.

          And, critics have accused VIllage Voice Media of using that money to engage in predatory pricing, where VVM was selling ads below cost in order to force Bay Guardian, another alternative newspaper in SF, out of business. If Bay Guardian had to lower its rates to match SF Weekly ad rates, it wouldn't have the same deep pockets or other newspapers to subsidize those losses. And, ultimately, with those unstainable losses, Bay Guardian would go out of business and leave SF Weekly the only alternative paper left in SF.

      3. Well, good luck reading his articles, LA Times will start charging.....

        Maybe that's where his salary is coming from.

        11 Replies
        1. re: groover808

          Isn't the LAT also eliminating their food section and folding it into the Saturday Lifestyle section?

          1. re: DiningDiva

            Yes. Sux, if you ask me, but they didn't. Nobody likes the new masthead, either - I have seen the prototype - which is a naked ripoff of the Saturday Evening Post's, and even uglier than that. Anyone who's spent time studying typography knows that setting italic, especially a swashy italic, in all caps is a sin against the Holy Ghost. The innards are okay, or would be if they weren't yet another collapsing of several already-compromised sections into one. It's like they've got Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Placido Domingo and BB King putting on a show at the bar in the Elks lodge. Bleagh!

            1. re: Will Owen

              I'm glad I'm not the only one upset about the LAT Food section ending. I've gotten so many recipes from that section. It's still going to be online, I presume?

              1. re: sibaik

                Def not the only one. I still love the food section but it's fallen off quite a bit. Waiting patiently for the LAT to go back to local ownership. Chi town ownership has behaved as expected.

                1. re: AAQjr

                  They moved Food to Thursdays to shift the focus from home cooks (as most papers' food sections were traditionally timed to coincide with grocers' weekly specials, featuring whatever produce, meats or canned goods were on sale that week) to the restaurant patrons, in hopes of attracting the more lucrative and numerous restaurant ads. They had previously shut down some of the Times's most distinctive special sections, beginning with the weekly Outdoors supplement and then the Books tabloid; the Home section remained, but with fewer homeowner articles and more real-estate market tub-thumping. And now Home, Health and Food are being collapsed into SATURDAY, a section roughly the size of last year's typical Home and Food editions. I am expecting at some future point to see a page of world news, a page of national, a page of state & local, a page of editorial, op-ed and a brief digest of Letters, a page of sports and three comic strips, and sixty-odd pages of advertising. Or just the advertising, with a peel-off sticker on the front page saying, "Want news? See!"

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    And I read somewhere they were going to start charging for content on their web site?

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Unless you're a subscriber, yes - and it's not lots of $$$. I didn't pay that much attention to that part, since we're subscribers.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        I subscribed for nearly 20 years when I live in the LA area. Somehow I don't think they're going to give me extra credit for that ;-)

                    2. re: Will Owen

                      as i understand it from reading other reports, the move from wednesday to thursday was to accommodate a change in printing presses. also, i seem to recall that until it moved to wednesdays 10 years or so ago, it had always been on thursdays back into the 1960s.

                      1. re: FED

                        Okay - I was just repeating what I'd heard from staffers, pieced together with what their PR line was. I do know that across the US newspapers would typically run food and cooking items on Wednesday, spinning the emphasis to encompass their main grocery advertisers' weekly specials, which are advertised on Tuesday to take effect on Wednesday. I've read that grocery ads were what prompted newspapers to add a food column in the first place, then in some cases a whole section. I'm missing ours already …

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          i think there were probably regional differences as to when supermarket ads/food sections ran ... but almost all of them were either wednesday or thursday. IIRC, there was a slight preponderance of Thursday at one time, but i could be wrong. now, of course, the question isn't which they they run, but whether they survive at all.

          2. Here's Gold's first article:


            Not a bad way to start his career(again) at the times.

            7 Replies
            1. re: chezwhitey

              Jonathan Gold is an extraordinarily good writer, and as far as I'm concerned, his ascent at the LA Times is good news for LA good-lovers. Virbilia was always too tetchy, played favorites, and wasn't much of a writer.

              1. re: andaba

                "Was"? I don't think she's going anywhere. She's been there at least since Ruth Reichl got the stand-alone Food section established, and figures strongly in Reichl's published accounts of that period. I'll agree that Mr. Gold is a stunningly good writer when he wants to be, which is almost every time at bat, and Virbila hasn't quite the same music to her stuff. But I believe she is a competent writer, a fine critic, sharp and fair, and on the few occasions I've seen her with hatchet in hand the establishment in question obviously had it coming.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Especially since JG doesn't ever seem to have a bad thing to say about any restaurant. I like having SIV around to crack the whip! There is room enough for both styles.

                  1. re: AAQjr

                    JG occasionally will call out something he doesn't like, e.g. Picca. The way he does it is much different where someone like SIV, or Alan Richman or the NYT reviewers can be quite caustic. I think JG just has a lot more respect for people in the food industry than many others.

                    1. re: chezwhitey

                      It's his own personal rule that he won't give a bad review to a mom-and-pop, but figures the big projects with the millionaire investors can take the occasional dig.

                      1. re: Papuli

                        Now, that leaves a lot open to interpretation. If I did not like the food at Casa Bianca I might say, at this juncture, "A-HA! That's why he keeps saying nice things about this crappy excuse for pizza - it's family-run!" However, since I do like the food at Casa Bianca I won't say that …

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Ha - well, I don't think he comes up with NEW nice things to say about Casa Bianca, right? It just always shows up on the Essential 99 list, which as we all know, isn't a "Best of" list. I also think Gold, being human, has his nostalgic favorites, like Border Grill. I'd guess Casa Bianca finds favor for the same reason.

            2. Who can blame a Pulitzer winner for leaving LA Weekly since the content has taken a considerable nose dive in quality. Have you read some of the articles and editorials in the past year? Bad. The rant against the Foo Fighters about electronic music. Classic.

              1. As a former Times employee (at the now defunct Orange County plant), I loved my work there and the institution.

                I remember Jonathan Gold's contributions vividly. His "Counterintelligence" feature inspired me to explore the exploding and far-flung ethnic restaurants that were cropping up all over the L.A. area at that time.

                I wish him well in his second act and look forward to reading his contributions for years to come.