LA Times Parent Company Launches Probe of Publisher Amid Sexual Harassment Claims - NBC Bay Area
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LA Times Parent Company Launches Probe of Publisher Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

The organizing committee of Times journalists pushing for a union at the paper called for Levinsohn to be fired immediately in response to the NPR report

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    In this file photo, Ross Levinsohn attends the 2013 Adweek Brand Genius Awards at Capitale on Sept. 25, 2013, in New York City.

    The parent company of the Los Angeles Times said Thursday it is investigating allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace conduct involving the paper's publisher Ross Levinsohn.

    The alleged conduct all predated Levinsohn's employment at the Times. The announcement from Tronc came after National Public Radio reported on its flagship news program "All Things Considered" and in a story on its website that Levinsohn had been sued in sexual harassment cases while working previously at two non-Tronc-related companies.

    According to the NPR report, Levinsohn, 54, admitted in sworn testimony to rating the "hotness" of female subordinates while working as an executive at the search company Alta Vista, and wondering aloud whether one female colleague moonlighted as a stripper.

    Tronc issued a statement saying it was beginning a probe of the matter.

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    "This week, we became aware of allegations that Ross Levinsohn acted inappropriately," according to the company. "We are immediately launching an investigation so that we have a better understanding of what's occurred."

    "At Tronc, we expect all employees to act in a way that supports a culture of diversity and inclusion," according to the statement. "We will take appropriate action to address any behavior that falls short of these expectations."

    The organizing committee of Times journalists pushing for a union at the paper called for Levinsohn to be fired immediately in response to the NPR report.

    Results of the newsroom unionization drive are expected to be revealed Friday. Members of the Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee wrote on their website that Levinsohn -- who became publisher in August -- is "not fit to lead our newsroom."

    NPR said its story was based on a review of court documents and interviews with more than two dozen former colleagues and associates of Levinsohn.

    Before joining The Times, he held jobs at CBS, Alta Vista, News Corp. and Yahoo. In its report, NPR said a former Alta Vista employee, Christine Fox, filed suit against the company and several executives -- including Levinsohn -- alleging a hostile work environment.

    A former executive at the company, Celia Francis, testified in the 2001 case that she had warned two top executives about the culture Levinsohn had allegedly created, NPR reported.

    "Ross was creating a frat house environment," Francis testified, according to NPR. "His behavior was inappropriate. I wanted to let them know they should do something about it."

    Members of the Times Guild organizing committee demanded on their website an "independent investigation" to determine how Levinsohn was hired.