NPR reports that media conglomerate tronc is investigating newly installed Los Angeles Times Publisher Ross Levinsohn after the public media outlet published detailed allegations of sexual harassment at his previous jobs.
Reporter David Folkenflik, who spoke to 26 of Levinsohn’s former colleagues and associates, describes “a frat-boy executive, catapulting ever higher, even as he creates corporate climates that alienated some of the people who worked for and with him.” As publisher of the Times, Levinsohn is now among the most powerful and highly paid men at one of the country’s largest newspaper companies.
The alleged behavior in question came at some of Levinsohn’s previous stops: the ancient search engine Alta Vista, News Corp., Yahoo, and The Hollywood Reporter. The topline accusations against Levinsohn, per NPR:
— Levinsohn was sued in separate sexual harassment lawsuits as an executive at two different corporations. By his own sworn testimony, Levinsohn admitted to rating the relative “hotness” of his female colleagues in office banter as a vice president at a digital media company. He also testified that he speculated about whether a woman who worked for him there was a stripper on the side.
— Two witnesses say they were shocked to see Levinsohn aggressively kissing and pressing himself against a woman at a glitzy music industry dinner in plain view of his subordinates and his clients. Levinsohn was married at the time.
— Levinsohn once told an executive for the Hollywood Reporter he would not stay at the publication’s lunch honoring the entertainment business’ most influential fashion stylists because he would have to be surrounded by gays — using a vulgar epithet for them, according to the executive.
A crisis PR firm hired by tronc told NPR that while it was investigating these allegations, Levinsohn had not been suspended.
The revelations come as the Times awaits the results of an historic unionization vote, expected tomorrow. The paper’s organizing committee called for Levinsohn to “resign or be fired immediately” in a statement soon after NPR’s story went live.
“A man who sexually harasses women, engages in ‘slut-shaming’ and refers to gay men as ‘fags’ is not fit to lead our newspaper,” the committee wrote.
Levinsohn was named publisher in August to help execute tronc’s vague plan for digital reinvention. He has handpicked old friends for top positions while at times cartoonishly resisting his newsroom’s attempt to unionize.
The new Times brass have also shown disrespect for the very type of work their own journalists do. After employees leaked remarks by the Levinsohn-installed Editor Lewis D’Vorkin at a staff meeting last year, D’Vorkin described the actions in a subsequent staff meeting as “unethical” and “morally bankrupt.” Those remarks were also leaked.
Levinsohn showed a similar obliviousness or disregard for how journalism works leading up to NPR’s story Thursday, according to Folkenflik:
We’ve reached out to tronc for comment and will update if we hear back.