Gannett Co. Inc. said Tuesday that David Hunke is relinquishing his position as president and publisher of USA Today to become the newspaper's chairman and then retire in September.
Gannett said it has started the search for a new publisher at the nation's second-largest newspaper. USA Today also has been searching for a new editor-in-chief since November, when John Hillkirk stepped down to help oversee investigative reporting projects as a senior editor.
Susie Ellwood, executive vice president and general manager of the newspaper, will be responsible for day-to-day operations and report to Gannett CEO Gracia Martore.
Hunke, 60, joined Gannett in 1992 and was named publisher of USA Today in April 2009. In his three years at the newspaper, he was unable to stem a circulation decline.
Monday-Friday average paid circulation dropped from 2.1 million in March 2009 to 1.8 million in September 2011, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
As chairman, Hunke will work on strategic projects and help the company transition to new leadership, Gannett said.
"When USA TODAY was launched nearly 30 years ago, it was bold and innovative," Hunke said in a statement. "Today, a terrific team is writing a new chapter as the USA TODAY brand transforms itself to meet changing media consumption habits. It has been an honor to work at one of America's great media companies."