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Newsroom Unionizes As LA Times Publisher Faces Investigation Over Sex Harassment Allegations

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — On the same day the Los Angeles Times newsroom voted overwhelmingly to unionize, Tronc, the parent company of the newspaper, is investigating allegations of inappropriate behavior by Ross Levinsohn, the newspaper's CEO and publisher.

Ross Levinsohn
FILE -- CEO of Guggenheim Media Ross Levinsohn attends the 2013 Adweek Hot List gala at Capitale on Dec. 2, 2013, in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Tronc began the investigation after a National Public Radio story Thursday detailed two sexual harassment lawsuits that named Levinsohn while he worked at Alta Vista and News Corp, as well as complaints from employees who said he fostered a fraternity-like atmosphere. Both lawsuits were settled for undisclosed amounts.

"This week, we became aware of allegations that Ross Levinsohn acted inappropriately," Tronc said in a statement to CBS2. "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. We will take appropriate action to address any behavior that falls short of these expectations."

The L.A. Times later reported that Levinsohn, who has been in the job since August, had been placed on an unpaid leave of absence.

The story broke one day before Times newsroom employees learned that they would be unionizing for the first time. The journalists began voting Jan. 4 on whether to join the Los Angeles Times Guild. The National Labor Relations Board announced Friday that the newsroom had voted by a margin of 248 to 44 to unionize, the Times reported.

"We are appalled by the findings in the NPR story," the Guild wrote in a statement on its website. "Ross Levinsohn should resign or be fired immediately. A man who sexually harasses women, engages in "slut-shaming" and refers to gay men as "f**s" is not fit to lead our newspaper."

He did not comment to NPR for its story but the network said Levinsohn called NPR CEO Jarl Mohn on Wednesday and said the allegations against him are lies.

One of the sexual harassment lawsuits named Levinsohn and other executives at internet search engine Alta Vista, NPR reported. In testimony, Levinsohn acknowledged that when he was a vice president there in 2001 he rated the relative "hotness" of female colleagues during office banter with other male employees, and speculated aloud about whether a woman who worked for him was a stripper on the side.

Another lawsuit, filed in 2007, alleged that Levihnson and other executives at News Corp., then the parent company of several Fox television properties, allowed a culture of sexual harassment to flourish.

Former colleagues also told NPR that in 2013 Levinsohn used a gay slur to describe the crowd at a luncheon for Hollywood stylists to an executive at the Hollywood Reporter.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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