theLAnd Editorial Collective:
Jenn Swann – Editor-In-Chief
Jeff Weiss – Editor-In-Chief
Evan Solano – Art/Creative Director
Sarah Bennett – Managing Editor
Liz Ohanesian – Senior Editor
Mark Ortega – Senior Writer
Dennis Dean – Digital Editor
A little over a year ago, L.A. Weekly was sold and nearly all of its editorial staff was fired. What was once L.A.’s most vaunted, progressive and culturally significant alternative newspaper had been bought and gutted by a semi-anonymous cabal of Republican donors and Trump supporters from Orange County. Their frontman and publisher was the former Vice President of the Claremont Institute—a right-wing think tank devoted to defeating progressive ideas by indoctrinating young conservatives and infiltrating what they considered to be liberal institutions. In response to their sinister agenda, myriad ethical lapses and outright refusal to cover local news in any meaningful way, the #BoycottLAWeekly movement began.
During that winter of 2017-18, the local journalism landscape seemed apocalyptic. Out-of-town vulture capitalists had spent years plundering the Los Angeles Times and threatened to slash another 20 percent of its staff. After employees unionized at LAist’s sister site in New York, the anti-labor billionaire owner of LAist threw a tantrum and scrubbed the entire website and its archives—along with those of companion sites around the country—from the internet, erasing years of crucial work by some of the city’s brightest journalists. Simultaneously, the faceless raiders behind Digital First Media—the remote hedge fund that owns most regional newspapers in Southern California—continued their never-ending assault of layoffs and “belt-tightening.” But it was the demise of L.A. Weekly that was closest to our hearts.
When the boycott began, we focused on explaining to the local advertisers that they were being misled and ripped off by the Weekly’s craven new owners. But we also understood that pushing back against the grifters wasn’t enough: Angelenos deserve vigorous reporting and thoughtful writing. We knew that we had to convert a cataclysmic near-extinction level event into something positive, and if we wanted such a publication to exist, we were going to have to build it ourselves. Conventional logic dictates that print is dead, alternative media is an endangered species, and the only potential saviors are benevolent billionaires. But to quote Kendrick Lamar, “fuck that.”
Over the course of a long resistance, the boycott had fostered a sense of community and solidarity within L.A.’s journalism world. Writers and editors who had only known each other by their bylines and social media handles finally met in person and began dreaming about what a real alternative publication would look like in modern times—one locally owned, fiercely devoted to the community, and powered by the desire to reverse the demonstrative greed and exploitation endemic among local media owners throughout America. We watched the murder of L.A. Weekly, the Village Voice, the Houston Press, Creative Loafing, and the East Bay Express and resolved that we wouldn’t let the same forces kill local, independent journalism in L.A.
TheLAnd is consecrated by the proposition that print is eternal, our sun-bleached soil is sacred, regional writing is universal, and real will always recognize real. TheLAnd is by locals, for locals. It is founded on the proposition that an El Salvadoran immigrant working at an El Sereno panaderia is as integral to the mosaic of L.A. as the biggest Hollywood movie star (and probably more so). It aims to exist at the creases of culture: where art, commerce, and politics intersect with race, class, gender and geography. It strives to tell the story of L.A. as we know it, from the perspective of those low to the ground, ear cupped to hear the subtle reverberations off the concrete. It understands that celebrity is unimpressive and usually dull. More compelling are the stories culled from where the news cameras rarely come—the sprawling in-depth narratives that capture the insanity, joy and inherent contradictions of this American cultural capital.
What you are reading is partially the result of an editorial collective of six—all but one of who were staffers, editors, columnists, or freelancers at the old L.A. Weekly (RIP). But it also embodies the fruits of a broader and deeper movement. Our contributing writers and photographers represent many of the city’s finest—all of them singularly devoted to helping realize our mission. None of us did this for money, but rather, we did it because we believed that this was a necessity. The city needed something new to help chronicle the current moment. Thankfully, we’re joined by a revitalized and resurgent L.A. Times and LAist—in addition to the great L.A. Taco. They aren’t competition, but brethren, united in our quest to help fill the void.
No one is under the illusion of being saviors, but we hope to offer volume for the voiceless and serve the interests of L.A.—not the politicians, business elites and assorted charlatans that flourish without a strong press. Our name is theLAnd because we believe that once you take the name of your city, the publication is in service to the city. We may occasionally be wrong, but we will promise to be unwavering in our covenant with this weird and electric sub-tropical metropolis that we’re bound to call home. We hope to make it proud.