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Former LA Times publisher David Laventhol, 81, dies

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Former Los Angeles Times publisher David Laventhol, who guided the newspaper during a period of expansion in the early 1990s, has died from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.

Laventhol, who, despite worsening symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, had been working in recent years on a book about the history of Times-Mirror Corp., died Wednesday at his New York home, said former Times executive Steven Isenberg.

Colleagues who worked with Laventhol over decades and on both coasts remembered him as a newspaper man’s publisher and bold visionary in an era when newspapers were financially ascendant and their leaders were household names, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“For me, Dave belongs in the pantheon of great American newspaper men, as an editor, as a publisher,” said Isenberg, a former executive vice president at The Times under Laventhol. “You’re talking about the people who were there in this moment when these papers cast a long shadow of achievement and aspiration.”

As publisher of The Times from September 1989 until January 1994, Laventhol presided over the expansion of daily coverage in Orange County and the San Fernando Valley and the opening of a Ventura County edition.

Shelby Coffey III, editor of The Times during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, said Laventhol showed his strength in approving funding for five special sections.

“It was also a huge expenditure of newsprint,” Coffey told The Times. “Given that it was a time of recession in Southern California and tight cost controls, it was a big call on the publisher’s part to allow us to do that, and it had a key part in allowing us to get a Pulitzer Prize.”

Alvin Shuster, longtime foreign editor of The Times, recalled Laventhol as a publisher who took care of his foreign staff. “As foreign editor I would send word to David we needed a bureau here or a bureau there, and those were the good old days when the answer came back, ‘Good idea,'” Shuster said.

Over a career spanning 50 years, Laventhol became an editor at the St. Petersburg Times, an editor at the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune and the Washington Post, and publisher of Newsday, a Long Island daily newspaper owned by Times Mirror. Isenberg said Laventhol considered his greatest achievement to be the creation of New York Newsday as an offshoot of Newsday in Long Island.

After leaving The Times, Laventhol was editor of the Columbia Journalism Review and served on the Committee to Protect Journalists.

David Abram Laventhol was born July 15, 1933, in Philadelphia. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1957 and his master’s from the University of Minnesota in 1960, according to The Times. He began his newspaper career as a reporter at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

Laventhol is survived by his wife, Esther, and children Sarah Laventhol and Peter Laventhol.

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