Berkeley Law dean pulls support from LA Weekly amid controversy

Anissa Nishioka/Staff
Anissa Nishioka/Staff

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Following controversial reports surrounding his investment in the new owner of LA Weekly, Semanal Media, UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky announced his plans to withdraw support.

The sale of LA Weekly to Semanal Media prompted the firing of all of the publication’s top editors and all but one staff writer.

Chemerinsky initially cited Brian Calle, the publication’s new operations manager, as the reason he was encouraged to invest in LA Weekly. Calle was the editorial page editor of the Orange County Register when he approached Chemerinsky about writing a weekly column, which he wrote from June 2013 to June 2017.

The two had a limited relationship, mostly communicating through emails and occasionally sharing meals together, but Chemerinsky said he thinks very highly of Calle. Earlier this year, Chemerinsky moved up to Northern California for his tenure as Berkeley Law’s new dean, at which point he began writing a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee.

When Calle first asked Chemerinsky to invest, Chemerinsky explained that he didn’t have the funds to invest. In late November, when Calle asked again, Chemerinsky conceded that he could make a small investment to “support a friend,” according to an email.

“Many controversial issues arose concerning the purchase of the LA Weekly,” Chemerinsky said in an email. “I do not have time to look into these or to be involved.”

After speaking with Calle, they agreed that he will not be involved, Chemerinsky added.

Chemerinsky said he has never invested in a newspaper or magazine before.

As a Los Angeles resident for two decades, Chemerinsky said in the email that he is “very familiar” with the LA Weekly and its importance in Southern California.

“I remain hopeful that (it) will be a great paper and meet the highest standards of journalism,” Chemerinsky said in the email.

Ani Vahradyan is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anivahrad.

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