The words used to describe what went down yesterday at the Los Angeles Times–purge, restructuring, and, most frequently, shakeup–carry a sense of familiarity for the Los Angeles Times in the era of Tronc (née Tribune Publishing) ownership.
In this latest, editor and publisher Davan Maharaj, a 28-year veteran of the publication, is out, along with managing editor Marc Duvoisin, deputy managing editor for digital Megan Garvey and assistant managing editor of investigations Matt Doig.
When Maharaj was given the title of publisher in 2016, in addition to his existent editor title, shakeup was how the Los Angeles Times described the move, part of a publisher-editor model Tronc, then Tribune publishing, was adopting at many of its papers.
The changeover today seems to reverse that model, with Ross Levinsohn being named the new publisher and CEO and Jim Kirk serving as interim editor.
Levinsohn previously served in executive roles at Yahoo, where he was interim chief executive and Fox Interactive Media, where he was president. He had also served as CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, former parent company of this publication.
In an interesting twist, Kirk had until very recently been publisher and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, the publication that Tronc recently tried to purchase, ultimately losing out to an investment consortium comprised of former Chicago alderman Edwin Eisendrath and a number of labor groups. Kirk left the Sun-Times a month later, i.e. earlier this month, joining Tronc as senior vice president of strategic initiatives.
Previous changeups at the Los Angeles Times included the 2015 firing of publisher Austin Beutner and the 2006 departure of then editor Dean Baquet, over his refusal to cut jobs. The question remains, however, about where to place these latest newsroom leadership changes within their specific context.
A December deep dive from Los Angeles magazine into happenings at the paper seemed to indicate there might not be much newsroom love lost with yesterday’s departures. This is how Ed Leibowitz described the reception among staff following the installation of Maharaj and Duvoisin:
Maharaj’s signature conviviality, according to several sources, was replaced by a grim determination to tighten his grip on power. For this fight he recruited one key ally. Marc Duvoisin was serving as the paper’s deputy managing editor for projects and enterprise reporting when Maharaj promoted him to managing editor. Few colleagues would have called Duvoisin the obvious choice. Generally managing editors must draw on considerable people skills to direct the staff on a day-to-day basis. But “approachability” is not a word that newsroom sources used when explaining Duvoisin to me. “Socially awkward” and “insincere” were among their more common characterizations.
But Poynter’s Benjamin Mullin reports that the decision to let all four go has left staff feeling miffed, with an anonymous source telling Mullin, “People are reeling (from) the depth of the cuts. It’s one thing to replace the top editor, but four top editors?”