LA Times editor stepping down after 4 years

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2011 2:07 AM
LA Times editor stepping down after 4 years

Russ Stanton, who led the Los Angeles Times to three Pulitzer Prizes in the midst of massive staff layoffs, has stepped down as editor and executive vice president, the newspaper announced Tuesday.

Stanton will be replaced Dec. 23 by Davan Maharaj, who is the newspaper's managing editor and has been with the Times for more than 20 years.

The newspaper did not provide a reason for Stanton's sudden departure and Stanton announced no immediate plans for his next move.

"It is important to me to be leaving on my own terms, and that is what I'm doing," Stanton said when asked whether he faced pressure to leave over his resistance to possible staff cuts, the Times reported. "I am greatly looking forward to taking a breather and figuring out what the next challenge is."

Stanton was known as a "clear and outspoken" advocate for the journalism profession, said Bryce Nelson, journalism professor at University of Southern California's Annenberg School. His abrupt departure indicates that the Times is still undergoing financial tumult that led to the short-lived tenures of several of Stanton's predecessors, Nelson said, noting that Stanton lasted longer than other editors immediately before him.

"There's a lot of turmoil about revenue, the power of the online edition, the role of the print edition," Nelson said. "This is going on in every American newsroom but it's been especially anguished at the Times."

Stanton, 52, joined the Times in 1997 as a business reporter in Orange County. During his four years as editor, the newspaper was among many faced with declining circulation and advertising revenue. Its newsroom staff shrank from more than 900 people to about 550 and its parent Tribune Co. is still working to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

At the same time, the paper expanded into digital realms and became a 24-hour operation with more than 17 million readers each month around the world, the paper said.

The Times won three Pulitzers under Stanton's stewardship, including the coveted Public Service Award in 2011 for exposing a huge municipal scandal in the suburban city of Bell. In the wake of reports about city officials voting themselves exorbitant salaries, several stepped down and are facing criminal charges.

"I am very proud of what this staff has accomplished over the last four years," Stanton said in the statement released by the Times. "This is a newsroom filled with dedicated, knowledgeable and experienced journalists, and under Davan's leadership there is continued greatness ahead for the Los Angeles Times."

In an email sent to newsroom staff Tuesday, he said that "Kathy and I have agreed that now would be a good time for a fresh set of eyes to lead our newsroom," referring to Kathy Thomson, the newspaper's president and chief operating officer. She called him an outstanding editor.

Thomson said there was no connection between Stanton's departure and potential newsroom layoffs, the Times reported. She declined to comment on whether there would be a fresh round of staff reductions next year.

Maharaj, a 49-year-old Trinidad native, will become the paper's 15th editor. He holds a political science degree from the University of Tennessee and a master's degree in law from Yale, the newspaper said.

Maharaj has worked at the paper for 22 years in Orange and Los Angeles counties and in Africa. He was an assistant foreign editor and then business editor before becoming managing editor in 2008. "Living on Pennies," his six-part series on poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, won the 2005 Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing.

It also inspired readers to donate tens of thousands of dollars to aid agencies, the Times said.

His local reporting on a probate attorney who inherited millions of dollars in stocks, real estate and "gifts" from clients led to changes in California probate law, the Times said.

"I am humbled and honored to lead one of the most talented and resilient newsrooms in the nation," Maharaj said. "We've made huge strides in getting our journalism to wide and diverse audiences across Southern California and beyond. We will continue to push forward, especially in the digital and mobile space."