(AP) — The Los Angeles Times ousted its editor-publisher and several top newsroom executives Monday in what its parent company says is a shake-up aimed at moving one of the nation’s flagship newspapers more quickly into the digital age while bolstering its Washington coverage and other reporting.
Veteran media executive Ross Levinsohn was named Times publisher. Jim Kirk, who until last week was editor and publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, was named interim executive editor.
The pair replace Davan Maharaj, a 28-year veteran of the Times who had held both titles since 2016.
The Times reported that Maharaj was terminated Monday, along with Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, Deputy Managing Editor for Digital Megan Garvey and Assistant Managing Editor of Investigations Matt Doig.
Although one of the nation’s premier newspapers, the Times has been beset with low morale in recent years following a series of buyouts and layoffs and an almost revolving-door-like atmosphere among its top executives, some of whom quit rather than make more layoffs.
Like many publications, it has struggled to move its subscriber and ad bases from print to digital.
“So it’s not really a surprise that it came to this,” veteran media business analyst Ken Doctor said of Monday’s shake-up. “It’s unusual that you see what’s been described as a purge, meaning four top editors all going at the same time, but that’s just an indication really of the end of one era.”
He cautioned that launching a new one won’t be easy, adding the newspaper has lagged far behind The New York Times and Washington Post in building a digital footprint.
“They are showing some positive results with digital-only subscriptions, growing those by 40 percent. But they have been a real laggard,” he said.
At the same time, he said the toll the buyouts and layoffs have taken on the newspaper has diminished its national and global reporting, while the Washington Post, under deep-pocketed billionaire owner Jeff Bezos, has added hundreds of digital and newsgathering positions.
Maharaj, who rose through the ranks after joining the Times as a summer intern in 1989, did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment. He told the Times staff in an email that it was an “honor working with the best journalists in a great American newsroom.”
“They are indomitable, and I wish them well in their continued fight to serve our community,” he added. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
Doctor praised the Times’ new publisher as a “smart guy” with a deep background in digital media who will likely bring a new perspective to the newspaper.
Although he’s never worked for a newspaper, Levinsohn is the former president of Fox Interactive Media and was head of global media for Yahoo.
“Ross is a visionary and innovative executive who is the ideal person to lead the Los Angeles Times into its next stage of growth,” Justin C. Dearborn, chief executive of the newspaper’s parent company, Chicago-based Tronc Inc., said in a statement.
Kirk, in addition to leading the newsroom, will work with Levinsohn to find a permanent editor for the Times, according to a company news release. He’s currently Tronc’s senior vice president of strategic initiatives.
Dearborn also indicated the newspaper’s era of buyouts and layoffs might be over.
“Ross isn’t coming in to manage further downsizing,” he told the Times. “We have more to offer.”
He added that the company specifically plans to invest more in reporting news from Washington and improving its sports and culture coverage.
“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 has never been a more important time for journalism, for facts and for reporting. We have incredible change going on in the world.”
Tronc owns the Times and several other major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and San Diego Union-Tribune.