TOM JOHNSON: GRACED WITH FAVOR FROM ABOVE

Almost from the beginning there seemed little doubt that Times Herald publisher Tom Johnson, 35, had quite a future with the Los Angeles Times and its parent, the Times Mirror Corporation. Johnson’s recent appointment as president of the Times merely affirms what became apparent last fall during a Times Mirror corporate board meeting at which Johnson briefed the board on the Times Herald’s progress. After Johnson left the room, Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler told fellow board members “I’m glad you’ve had a chance to see Tom Johnson today, because he has a brilliant future with the Times Mirror Corporation.”

The biggest surprise in the Johnson appointment is that it happened so soon. Several months ago Chandler decided that he needed help running the L.A. newpaper, so Chandler created the position of president of the Times, which he’s handing to Johnson. As president, Johnson will be in charge of all departments except news and editorial, suggesting that Johnson will be doing what he does best, managing the business side of the operation.

Johnson leaves behind an impressive string of accomplishments at the Herald, which he joined in 1973 as its 31-year-old executive editor. He shuffled the newspaper’s editorial staff and moved quickly to hire first-rate reporters and editors, eventually leading to much improved news coverage. Johnson built a new aggressive image for the Herald, replacing the paper’s weak Saturday evening edition with a strong Saturday morning edition competing directly with the News. Several years ago the Herald began scooping the News on major stories and has been doing so consistently ever since, bringing the paper many recognitions, including a mention last fall by Time as one of the South’s five best dailies.

Herald chairman Jim Chambers says he personally takes great satisfaction in seeing the first president of the Los Angeles Times chosen from the Herald. “A lot of people still think the L.A. Times is running the Herald,” Chambers said. “Now maybe they’ll take notice where the president of the L.A. Times came from.”

The Herald is searching for a new publisher by looking at three candidates inside the paper and also looking at other newspapers. The three Herald candidates are executive vice president and editor Ken Johnson, executive vice president for marketing Tom McCartin and vice president and general manager Bob Hollingsworth. Johnson and McCartin came to the Herald from the Washington Post. although at one time McCartin worked for the L.A. Times. Hollingsworth is a long time Herald employee.

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