Berkeley Law dean announces plan to invest in new owner of LA Weekly

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Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that he plans to invest in Semanal Media, the new owner of LA Weekly.

After former owner Voice Media Group completed its sale of LA Weekly to the newly created Semanal Media, all of the top editors, as well as all but one of the staff writers, lost their jobs.            

“The change is disturbing, to say the least,” said Katie Bain, former senior music writer for LA Weekly. “A group of dedicated journalists with invaluable institutional knowledge were unceremoniously let go, leaving the Weekly in a state of freefall.”

The financial backers of Semanal Media were unknown until Friday, when the publication’s new operations manager, Brian Calle, revealed LA Weekly’s new owners. Calle also added that Chemerinsky plans to invest.

Chemerinsky told the LA Times that he plans to invest because he has “enormous admiration and respect” for Calle. Calle formerly oversaw the Orange County Register’s opinion pages, for which Chemerinsky wrote a weekly column, according to the LA Times.

When asked to comment on his plans to invest, Chemerinsky said in an email that he was “sufficiently unsure what (he) will be doing,” and added that he did not “have anything to say right now.”

In addition to Calle, other investors include Los Angeles-based attorney David Welch, philanthropist and investor Kevin Xu and boutique hotel developer Paul Makarechian.

Chemerinsky has been a long-time advocate of free speech, frequently discussing the topic on campus.

The loss of the staff reflects a national trend of local news institutions being shut down by “conservative/right-wing money,” according to Bain.

“It seems likely that the ‘new LA Weekly’ will be a mouthpiece for conservative/right-wing thought, which is completely in contradiction with the Weekly’s longstanding history as a progressive/counterculture news source,” Bain said in an email.

Contact Jenny Weng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.