Former Newsday, LA Times publisher David Laventhol has died

AP News
Posted: Apr 09, 2015 8:55 PM
Former Newsday, LA Times publisher David Laventhol has died

NEW YORK (AP) — David Laventhol, an innovative editor and publisher who led Newsday and the Los Angeles Times to expanded, prize-winning coverage, has died at age 81, a longtime associate said Thursday.

Howard Schneider, who worked under Laventhol as a reporter and editor at Newsday and is dean of the journalism school at Stony Brook University, said Laventhol's family confirmed that he died Wednesday.

He said Laventhol "redefined newspapers in the television age."

Tom Johnson, a former Los Angeles Times publisher and former president at CNN, said Laventhol "was a splendid editor and an excellent publisher. Every news organization he led was better because of him."

Newsday and the Times both won Pulitzer Prizes under Laventhol. But his boldest move may have been the creation of a New York City edition of Long Island's Newsday. New York Newsday was widely praised but lost $100 million and closed in 1995 after 10 years in print.

"It was the only time I ever cried in this business," Laventhol once said.

Laventhol moved from The Washington Post, where he had helped create a style section, to be associate editor at Newsday under publisher Bill Moyers in 1969.

He helped design a Newsday style section, was named executive editor in 1970 and publisher and chief executive officer in 1978.

Newsday expanded rapidly in the 1970s, adding a Sunday paper, foreign bureaus and an edition for the New York City borough of Queens.

"(Laventhol) was and always will be an important part of Newsday's history. His journalistic vision was key to Newsday's growth, influence and success," said Newsday spokesman Paul Fleishman.

New York Newsday came out in 1985, trying to find a niche between the existing city tabloids — the Daily News and the New York Post — and The New York Times. It focused on neighborhood coverage and thorough examination of city issues, while including such tabloid staples as gossip columns.

But in the end, New York Newsday fell victim to a demand for increased profits from shareholders at the Times Mirror Co., which had purchased Newsday.

Laventhol became president of Times Mirror, and in 1989 he was named publisher of the Los Angeles Times, then also owned by Times Mirror.

While he was publisher, the Times added several foreign correspondents and expanded its reach in California. After riots in Los Angeles in 1992, Laventhol started an inner-city edition.

Steven Isenberg, who was an associate publisher to Laventhol at Newsday and an executive vice president under him at the Times, said, "In the heart of him, he was an editor. He learned the whole enterprise of newspapers, the financial imperatives, but because he'd been an editor he was the best-case kind of publisher."

Laventhol retired as publisher in 1994 but was a longtime member of the Pulitzer Prize board and was editor of the Columbia Journalism Review for several years.

Schneider said Laventhol "redefined newspapers in the television age to be daily magazines. He took Newsday, which was a local and regional newspaper, and made it a national force."

Laventhol is survived by his wife Esther, a son and a daughter. Schneider said the family plans a private funeral but will announce a memorial service later.