Top editors out at Los Angeles Times*

Updated with memos below and clean-up edits.

davan-maharaj-320.jpgTronc today pushed out Los Angeles Times editor-publisher Davan Maharaj (right) and replaced him as interim editor with Jim Kirk, the former editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Managing editor Marc Duvoisin, deputy managing editor for digital Megan Garvey and assistant managing editor of investigations Matt Doig also were terminated Monday morning, the Times says in a web story. Lawrence Ingrassia, the paper's second managing editor, announced his retirement over the weekend and was not mentioned in today's LAT story.

“We just felt that we weren’t going in the direction that we needed to be going,” Tronc chief executive Justin Dearborn said. “The L.A. Times brand is our brand that has a global reach and we just weren’t getting there fast enough.”

The new publisher is Ross Levinsohn, 54, a veteran of Fox Interactive who also had been interim chief of Yahoo. From the Times story:

The new leaders take over a news organization with flagging morale after years of management changes on top of huge shifts in consumer behavior that has roiled the entire newspaper industry. While still cranking out high-quality journalism, the paper hasn’t been able to keep pace with better resourced rivals on the East Coast, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

“My aspiration is to draw upon the incredible amount of work that has been done here and broaden it,” Levinsohn said. “In my adult life, there is never been a more important time for journalism, for facts and for reporting. We have incredible change going on in the world.”

Tronc chief executive Justin Dearborn said the company plans to invest more heavily in news in Washington, improve its culture report and its coverage of sports. Dearborn would like The Times to be a more authoritative voice reaching Asia and South America.

“Ross isn’t coming in to manage further down-sizing,” Dearborn said. “We have more to offer.”

While never working in newspapers, Levinsohn is a media veteran. He served as interim chief executive of Yahoo at a particularly turbulent time, and before that he was president of Fox Interactive Media, where he oversaw a diverse group of digital properties, including MySpace, Fox Sports and Rotten Tomatoes. He played an integral role in the creation of the online video streaming site, Hulu.

He was chief executive of Guggenheim Digital Media, where he managed such assets as the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Adweek, before a change in direction there.

The moves come as the Times' print paper shrinks to fewer and fewer pages with ads and the online paper also slips further behind the national competition. There also has been upset in the newsroom over Maharaj's handling of the recent investigative series on former USC medical school dean Dr. Carmen Puliafito. Some staffers had sent a letter to Tronc headquarters complaining about Maharaj's leadership.

Update: Duvoisin's wife, reporter Jill Leovy, and Maharaj's administrative assistant were also fired, the Times reported later in the day.

Maharaj was blamed for lengthy delays in getting a previous investigative series into the paper, and the departures of some top reporters, in a Los Angeles Magazine piece last December. The magazine retweeted the story today after the news broke.

Dearborn told the Poynter media news site, regarding the dismissal of so many editors: "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."

Levinsohn, the new publisher, tweeted his excitement at the news of his hiring.

Back in 2012, he had joined the board of the new post-Sam Zell Tribune Company.

Dearborn's memo sent to the newsroom (after the web story posted!) notes other departures from Tronc as part of this house cleaning.

Dear Colleagues,

Today we are announcing important management changes to continue to drive our transformation and further position ourselves for long-term growth as a media organization. This new structure will allow us to expand the reach of our great journalism and realize our business objectives, including elevating and better integrating digital processes that are critical for our future. Here are the changes we are announcing today across the company:

Los Angeles Times Leadership: I am pleased to welcome Ross Levinsohn as Chief Executive Officer and Publisher of the Los Angeles Times. In this role, he will oversee all aspects of the Los Angeles Times’ operations and related businesses and be charged with expanding its journalistic endeavors, product and content initiatives, global footprint and business and revenue opportunities.

Ross is a digital media pioneer who has led the shift to digital at numerous media and content companies. He has significant experience in advertising, business development, partnerships and marketing, in addition to multiplatform content expertise. Best known for his leadership roles at Yahoo! and Fox, Levinsohn has helped build and operate both complex large-scale businesses and startup endeavors. As Interim CEO and Head of Global Media at Yahoo!, he helped re-energize and reposition the company, and as President of Fox Interactive Media, his vision and leadership turned Fox into a leading digital player overnight. He went on to serve as CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, where he managed assets including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Adweek and the Clio Awards. His unique product and innovation perspective and proven ability to effectively collaborate and drive growth will serve us well as he takes on this new leadership role. Ross will be a direct report to me. Please help me welcome Ross to the company.

Ross and I have asked Jim Kirk to serve as the Interim Executive Editor at the Los Angeles Times. Jim recently joined tronc from the Chicago Sun-Times, where he served as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief. He will work closely with Ross on leading the search for the next Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Times. In this interim leadership role, Jim will also collaborate with the newsroom daily.

Davan Maharaj, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Times, is leaving the company, and I would like to thank him for his years of service and many contributions to the news organization.

Other Organization Changes: We are making additional changes to accelerate transformation across all of our markets. Effective immediately, Tim Knight will now have responsibility for all of the company’s local market operations other than the Los Angeles Times. Tim and Ross will work closely together on initiatives, which will allow us to grow our digital audience and revenue in each of our markets and businesses. The Los Angeles Times is the only market of the nine markets that will undergo a seperation of the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief role. In addition, Terry Jimenez will have oversight of our recently consolidated manufacturing and distribution operations, now known as Media Operations.

As a result of these changes, some other colleagues are leaving the organization, including Tim Ryan, Ken DePaola and Joseph Schiltz from troncM, and Marc Duvoisin, Megan Garvey and Matt Doig from the Los Angeles Times. Each has contributed a great deal during their years of service, and we wish each of them well.

Please join me in congratulating our new leadership.

I know that many of you have questions, and in the coming days and weeks, you will receive more information. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with any questions.

While we are in a moment of change, we are facing unprecedented opportunity. I am excited about our people, I am proud of our ability to attract world-class talent and I am energized by our ability to transform and grow. I want to thank each of you for your commitment to the company and for continuing to fulfill the incredibly important role we serve in a democracy.

There is tremendous energy and creativity at tronc, Inc. With our incredible talent and passion, I am certain that our best days are ahead and look forward to working alongside you every step of the way.

Here's the LAT's official picture of Levinsohn, and his memo to the staff below that.


Good Afternoon,

As I walked through the Globe lobby doors this morning, the history and responsibility of this job surrounded me. I am honored and humbled to have been asked to lead the Los Angeles Times. I’ve had a love affair with LA since 1968 and have called this city home for almost 20 years – and read the Los Angeles Times for far longer. I was always drawn to the images, cultural impact and aspirational life I imagined existed here. It took me many years to finally call LA home, but now I’m never leaving. I have long admired what the Los Angeles Times stood for – its voice and impact, the world-class journalism that is produced day in and day out, the challenges you tackle and the importance of what you do.

And never more so than now. I have always had a deep passion for news, but the events of the last several years have brought the importance of journalism to a new level. As our country and world go through significant changes, including a rapidly evolving media landscape, the need for honest and trusted journalism has never been greater. Journalism matters… facts matter…opinions matter. What you do each day is vital for our democracy. The Los Angeles Times fulfills an essential and critical role both in our community and across the nation. That’s why when Michael and Justin asked me to join you, I jumped at the opportunity.

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. Jim Kirk, who is joining us as Interim Executive Editor leading the newsroom day to day, will work closely with me as we begin our search for a new editor in chief.

I’ve been lucky to have worked with some amazing companies, legendary storytellers, world-class journalists, incredible co-workers and media titans who have helped shape our industry. I have benefitted from their wisdom, and I have every expectation that this experience will be no different. Over the coming weeks, I want to meet as many of you as possible so I can hear your candid thoughts about what works, what doesn’t and how you imagine the Los Angeles Times 10 years from now. I have an idea or two, but you are the lifeblood of what makes this engine work. I am all ears.

These conversations are important to me not only because they will inform the strategy we will outline in the months ahead, but also because I recognize that this is a place that has gone through many changes in recent years, including today’s announcement. I want to ensure that your voices are heard, that we do this together and that the Los Angeles Times has a culture that nourishes talent and fosters excellence. I believe in honesty, transparency and commitment. I will do my best to be that way with you. I hope you’ll accept the challenge to be the same.

I ask for those of you in the newsroom to please join me at an all-hands meeting later today at 3 pm, where I can more formally introduce myself and Jim, explain why I am so excited about what’s ahead and start getting to know you better. And over the next few days, I’ll be seeking out opportunities to speak to all areas of the organization to get better acquainted with you all as well. And over the coming days, I will be meeting with all the teams inside the company.

I look forward to working closely with you all to build on the Los Angeles Times’ tremendous track record, expand the reach of its journalism and help it reach new heights.



Garvey tweets:

From the archive, here is the post from the last time a Los Angeles Times editor was fired and replaced by a Chicago news veteran with no experience in California. His name was Jim O'Shea. He too was out a little bit more than a year later.

Remembering how tumultuous that period was for the local paper.

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