Several top editors at the Los Angeles Times were terminated Monday as the paper’s corporate parent moved to install new leadership.
Davan Maharaj, the newspaper’s former editor in chief, has been replaced by Jim Kirk, the former top editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. Kirk left the Sun-Times last week to join Tronc, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and several other regional American newspapers.
Kirk’s title will be interim executive editor, and he will lead the search for a new editor in chief.
Also gone are Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, Deputy Managing Editor for digital Megan Garvey and Assistant Managing Editor of investigations Matt Doig.
Ross Levinsohn, the former interim CEO of Yahoo, was named publisher and chief executive at the Los Angeles Times. He also replaces Maharaj, who held the title of publisher and editor in chief. His portfolio includes the majority of the digital assets for Tronc.
Justin Dearborn, the CEO of Tronc, told Poynter that the firings were necessary to give Levinsohn an opportunity to bring in leaders that support his vision for the Los Angeles Times.
“We don’t do it lightly, but he’s got to build a team with a digital-first mindset to maintain the integrity of the great journalism that we do here,” Dearborn said.
Levinsohn told Poynter that he intends to “really focus in on what L.A. and California represent, culturally and economically and be aggressive about delivering this to all platforms around the world.”
“My focus is pretty simple,” Levinsohn said. “This in my mind, is the most important time to be in the news business. The Los Angeles Times has incredible journalists, and there’s never been a more important time to produce incredible journalism and get it out on all these platforms.”
A source at the Los Angeles Times told Poynter that the newsroom is struggling to understand why four senior editors at the newspaper were dismissed simultaneously.
“People are reeling (from) the depth of the cuts,” said the source, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “It’s one thing to replace the top editor, but four top editors?”
The announcement triggered meetings at the Los Angeles Times, as staffers grappled with the departures, according to the source.
Levinsohn will hold an all-hands meeting at 3 p.m. with Kirk to discuss the future of the newsroom, he said in a memo to staffers Monday.
My priority is to help ensure the Los Angeles Times continues to flourish and becomes an even more aggressive, competitive and sustainable organization. I am confident that together we will accelerate the Los Angeles Times’ evolution and the digital transformation of tronc and produce its next stage of growth – always keeping our sights trained on our mission of producing ground-breaking and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism.
The leadership shakeup at the Los Angeles Times is accompanied by changes throughout Tronc, which owns newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Tim Knight, who heads the digital content and commerce division of tronc Inc., will be given responsibility for all of the company’s local market operations other than the Los Angeles Times. Terry Jimenez, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Tronc, gains oversight of the company’s recently consolidated manufacturing and distribution operations.
Tim Ryan, president of publishing at Tronc, is departing, as is Chief Marketing Officer Joseph Schiltz and Senior Vice President of Sales Ken DePaola.
A source at the Los Angeles Times granted anonymity to speak candidly told Poynter that the fired managers were not beloved by the “rank-and-file.”
“They could be hard to talk to and people didn’t feel like they offered much vision for the direction of the paper,” the source said.
There was an outpouring of affection on social media for Garvey, who’s spent nearly two decades at the newspaper and was recently given a corporate citation for newsroom innovation.
— Christine Mai-Duc (@cmaiduc) August 22, 2017
— Andrew Briz ? (@BrizAndrew) August 22, 2017
— Patrick Kevin Day (@patrickkevinday) August 22, 2017
If you ask me, @garveylatimes, was the #realmvp of the L.A. Times digital efforts in the last decade.
— Martin Beck (@MartinBeck) August 21, 2017
In December 2016, Los Angeles Magazine published an article titled “What’s the matter with the L.A. Times?” that described angst from employees who were frustrated that a high-profile investigation was being held up by top editors at the newspaper.
Monday’s shakeup is the latest wrinkle in what has historically been a fraught relationship between the Los Angeles Times and Tronc, its corporate parent. Since Tribune Company (now Tronc) bought Los Angeles Times parent Times Mirror in 2000 for $6.45 billion in stock and cash, Los Angeles and Chicago have frequently clashed, leading to departures of top editors and executives from the paper’s West Coast jewel.
Dean Baquet, now executive editor at The New York Times, resigned the editorship of the Los Angeles Times in 2006 rather than implement a cost-cutting edict from Chicago-based Tribune Company.
There was again turmoil in 2015 after Austin Beutner, then-publisher of the Los Angeles Times, was fired by then-CEO Jack Griffin after leading a yearlong initiative to reshape the paper’s digital efforts. In March 2016, a month after Chicago tech mogul Michael Ferro became chairman of Tribune Publishing, Maharaj was promoted to editor and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, a dual role that saw Ryan become president of publishing for the entire company.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that several top “executives” at the Los Angeles Times had been dismissed. That is incorrect. Several top editors have been dismissed.