* Updated and tinkered with after publication. Maharaj's note is down below
Los Angeles Times editor Davan Maharaj added publisher to his title today, as Ken Doctor reported that he likely would, in yet another Tribune Publishing shakeup. This change was orchestrated by new board chairman Michael Ferro, a Chicago investor who has been with the company about a month as the top shareholder. The switch of top job title to publisher-editor in chief is also happening across the Tribune publishing chain, including in San Diego. The current publishers will mostly leave, but Timothy Ryan will move from publisher of the LA Times to become Tribune’s president of publishing, overseeing newspapers other than The Times.
A second interesting part of this news: the Times also has gotten hold of the LA.com domain, which I haven't seen in use lately but which used to belong to the Daily News. The LAT's story says it will be "a new 'content vertical' intended to celebrate Los Angeles, capitalize on its global allure and draw readership to The Times."
From the LAT's story:
Eliminating a layer of publishers will reduce costs, an urgent priority for many legacy media companies. A Tribune news release offered an additional rationale for the change, saying editors “are in the unique position of understanding their local communities, having the trust of their readers and maintaining the highest standards of journalistic integrity while implementing key initiatives that drive the business forward....”'
Several senior Tribune Publishing executives brought in by Jack Griffin, who was recently removed as CEO, are following him out the door. They include Denise Warren, a former New York Times executive who led Tribune Publishing’s digital strategy.
In an email to L.A. Times employees Wednesday morning, Maharaj said he was “deeply honored” to take on added responsibilities as publisher. “I will continue to serve as editor and work with our masthead to transform The Times into a state-of-the-art newsroom, able to compete and excel in all media,” he wrote.
Maharaj described Los Angeles as “a remarkable crossroads of culture and creativity that has long captured the world’s imagination.” He said that Ferro and Dearborn had challenged The Times to position itself as “a global brand.”
“As publisher, I will lead our efforts — on both the editorial and business sides — to make The Times the primary destination for readers and advertisers everywhere who are interested in Los Angeles, California and the West,” Maharaj told the staff.
He added that his new business-side responsibilities “will not diminish in the slightest my commitment to the integrity and independence of our news product. Quite the opposite: I am keenly aware that our business success depends on readers’ confidence in our journalism, in their faith that what we report is impartial, accurate and intended above all to serve their needs.”
Maharaj has been with the Times 26 years, as the editor since 2011. He began at The Times as a summer intern in 1989. Ryan becomes probably the shortest-tenured publisher in LA Times history: he was named to succeed fired publisher Austin Beutner last September. By the way, I think General Harrison Gray Otis was a combined publisher-editor during at least some his stint with the paper from the 1880s to 1917. He certainly functioned as editor in chief. His daughter married Harry Chandler, who served as publisher from 1917 to 1944 and passed the paper on down through his family until Chicago's Tribune Company bought in in 1999.
Jim Warren, a former Chicago Tribune senior editor now at Poynter, says that Tribune Publishing "will apparently stress the melding of the editor and publisher positions as a 'content-first' gambit."
And while that merely underscores the long-ongoing melding of the journalism and business sides at many media companies, it remains to be seen whether one person can straddle both jobs at enterprises as complicated as The Times and Tribune.
While most media coverage of newspapers' troubles focus on newsrooms, less attention has been given to what has been a brain drain on the business side for many years. For example, smart and aggressive young sales and marketing personnel have often long ago left for what they deem more up and coming, usually digital companies. Similarly, few of the brightest and most ambitious graduates of business schools see newspapers as a place to ply their trades.
Maharaj and Dold have no prior business experience on a par with overseeing editorial, sales, marketing, circulation, digital and other areas of a major daily. To that extent, Ferro, 49, is trusting gut instincts that have served him fairly well in his previous tech enterprises, including health care imaging firm he sold to IBM last year for $1 billion.
Also this: Tribune Publishing today reported that it lost money during the fourth quarter.
And this, from recently appointed Tribune Publishing CEO Justin Dearborn, and Maharaj's new boss:
We also announced we have acquired LA.com and have plans to launch a new channel to celebrate Los Angeles and extend the reach of the Los Angeles Times. Davan Maharaj will take on additional responsibilities as Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Times and will oversee the global launch of this new content vertical. Davan will report into me. Congratulations to all of our new leaders.
New: Here's Maharaj's note to the staff about what this all means at the LA Times:
From: "Maharaj, Davan"
Subject: Message from Davan Maharaj
You’ve heard the news: Michael Ferro, the new chairman of Tribune Publishing, and Justin Dearborn, our new CEO, have asked me to take on additional responsibilities as publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
I’m deeply honored and would like to take a moment to explain what this change means for us.
I will continue to serve as editor and work with our masthead to transform The Times into a state-of-the-art newsroom, able to compete and excel in all media. As publisher, I will also oversee many aspects of our business operations, expanding on the role I’ve held as a member of the senior leadership team.
Combining the duties of editor and publisher reflects a recognition that journalism is at the heart of both our civic mission and our business. As our industry has changed, newsroom leaders are in an ideal position to know our readers’ interests, to know our markets and to work closely with others in the company on key business initiatives.
Allow me to address a question you may have – and to assure you that my new responsibilities will not diminish in the slightest my commitment to the integrity and independence of our news product. Quite the opposite: I am keenly aware that our business success depends on readers’ confidence in our journalism, in their faith that what we report is impartial, accurate and intended above all to serve their needs.
Over the last week, I’ve had a number of conversations with Michael and Justin, and I’m excited by their ambitions for our company. They have challenged us to position The Times as a global brand.
This is an objective that makes the utmost sense – for L.A. is more than just a city. It is a remarkable crossroads of culture and creativity that has long captured the world’s imagination.
As publisher, I will lead our efforts – on both the editorial and business sides – to make The Times the primary destination for readers and advertisers everywhere who are interested in Los Angeles, California and the West.
This is a mission I feel in my bones. I began my career as a cub reporter in my native Trinidad, an island where, it is often said, the Ganges meets the Nile. From my first day in Los Angeles, I have been energized by its boundless variety and vitality, and as editor I have pushed us all to reflect those qualities in our coverage of L.A.
I came to The Times in 1989 as a summer intern, excited by the opportunity to be part of one of the world’s greatest news organizations. Over the years, The Times has maintained both the quality of its journalism and the fearlessness of its ambitions.
Our work makes a difference, and a profound one. When we expose corruption, those in power often respond by passing laws and righting wrongs. When we capture the energy of life around us, we move the dial on the latest trends. More than any other news organization in California, we lead the conversation.
We are all partners here, from the journalists in the newsroom to those who market, print, promote and deliver The Times; who sell the advertising that funds our news gathering; and who support and enhance our work in other ways too numerous to detail here.
Since becoming editor in 2011, I have seen how effective our newsroom is when everyone pulls together to meet the demands of a breaking story, a complex investigation or a multi-part narrative. As publisher, I hope to see the same collaborative spirit at work throughout the company. I want to encourage us all – no matter what floor we might work on – to tap into the creativity throughout the building to help us realize our shared goals.
The challenges that lie ahead require all of us to pull together, and with your help, I know we can position The Times to be a world leader in news and information.
San Diego Union-Tribune editor Jeff Light also becomes publisher-editor in chief there.