John Carroll, who buoyed the Los Angeles Times during a period of financial headwinds and guided the staff to more than a dozen Pulitzer wins during his five-year tenure as editor, died Sunday of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. He was 73.
The Los Angeles Times, which Carroll helmed from the spring of 2000 to 2005, described him as “a courageous editor” who possessed an “instinct for the big story and unrelenting focus on the craft of journalism.” The paper also acknowledged his contributions, which included an emphasis on investigative reporting and beat coverage in addition to his hiring of talented journalists and his decision to remake some sections of the paper.
His stint at the Los Angeles Times was also distinguished by 13 Pulitzer Prizes that the paper won under his supervision. Five were awarded in 2004, “the largest number The Times ever won in a single year and the second-largest in the history of the prizes,” Elaine Woo writes.
Carroll’s exit from the Los Angeles Times came amid financial difficulties for the paper’s parent, Chicago-based Tribune Company. He resigned, “adamant that ‘open-ended’ cuts would damage the quality of the paper,” Woo writes:
In the end, Tribune’s demands to cut expenditures drove Carroll away. A key moment came in the spring of 2004, after the paper had won five Pulitzers. As Times editors and honorees gathered in New York to collect the awards, Tribune brass ordered budget cuts.
Carroll resigned the following year.
“On the surface, it’s about cuts,” Carroll later told the New Yorker. “But it’s also about aspirations for the paper and for journalism itself.”
Dean Baquet — now the executive editor of The New York Times — succeeded Carroll, who had hired him away from The New York Times. Rather than further cut costs at the Los Angeles Times, Baquet resigned the next year.
Among the biggest stories Carroll presided over at the Los Angeles Times was a report published days before a recall election revealing that future California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had groped women. The story was met with backlash from many readers who canceled their subscriptions:
Carroll met the criticism head-on.
“One of our goals is to do more investigative reporting,” he wrote in a commentary published after the election. “At the risk of offending still more readers, I’ll say that if you’re put off by investigative reporting, this probably won’t be the right newspaper for you in the years to come.”