Termination of Robert Jensen as president of the Times Herald apparently had its roots in a growing conflict between Jensen and Executive Editor Tom Johnson. This problem, ultimately coupled with a problem in hiring a New York executive, reportedly led to Jensen’s resignation after 20 years with the paper.
Nobody will talk for the record, but the scenerio reportedly went something like this:
Johnson, everybody’s heir-apparent to the publisher’s chair, ired Jensen by agitating for pay raises for the paper’s reportorial staff. To avoid Jensen’s veto, Johnson took the problem to Otis Chandler, head man of the Herald’s parent newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.
Chandler approved two five per cent pay increments along with a few merit raises. Of course, Jensen didn’t take kindly to his authority being circumvented by way of California, and he said so in no uncertain terms. His outburst was fuel for the fire, but what he did next was to seal his fate.
Publisher James Chambers, acting in a totally unrelated move, had reached general agreement with New York advertising executive Robert Marker (chairman, McCann-Erikson) to give up his $120,000-a-year position to come to the Herald. Chambers left town and turned the details over to Jensen.
Marker came to town and met with Jensen, but something happened and Marker reportedly decided he didn’t want the Herald job after all.
This upset Chambers and that dropped ball, coupled with friction generated on the West Coast by the Jensen-Johnson situation, led Chambers to ask Jensen for his resignation. Marker did sign on, effective Jan. 1.
Jensen’s departure was about the last thing any of the oldtimers around the newspaper expected. Less than five years ago, when the Los Angeles wheels staged a luncheon celebrating the purchase of the Herald, the words of praise heaped on Jensen made it clear LA saw him as a comer. In fact, it wasn’t long before he moved into the president’s office.
Jensen’s sudden departure has sparked rumors that the paper’s plan to move Johnson up the ladder has been accelerated. Within the next few months, sources say, he will be named publisher, but Chambers will retain his board chairmanship and all the power.