Top editors of the Los Angeles Times were suddenly sacked by tronc, the Chicago-based company that owns the Times, this afternoon (Aug. 21). A memo announcing the personnel changes from tronc CEO Justin Dearborn was sent to employees of both the L.A. Times and Union-Tribune.
Ross Levinsohn, former interim chief executive of Yahoo, was named publisher and chief executive of the Times. In a statement, Levinsohn said the dismissals will accelerate the "digital transformation" of tronc. Newspaper experts have expected for some time that daily newspapers, including those owned by tronc, might drop some print editions and replace them with digital editions on certain days — say, digital for three days a week and print for the other four, with an eye to cutting the print editions. This has already been done at some dailies.
Levinsohn replaces Davan Maharaj, who was publisher and editor of the Times. Jim Kirk, former editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, will take over the top editor position formerly held by Maharaj. Kirk only joined tronc last week. Naming Kirk is an unusual move, because the Sun-Times has been a sick newspaper for more than 30 years. It has always been in second place behind the tronc-owned Chicago Tribune in that market.
Others who have been booted out the door at the Times are managing editor Marc Davoisin, deputy managing editor for digital Megan Garvey, and assistant managing editor of investigations Matt Doig.
The Times manages the San Diego Union-Tribune. My sources there just heard the news and don't know what to think. However, the U-T recently laid off some editorial employees and has been making other economic moves.
Some on the inside expect the U-T to switch to all-digital on certain days of the week.
"If you are in U-T management you are wetting your pants," says a former top executive of Southern California daily newspapers. "You probably have been worried ever since tronc took over. Some have already paid the price" in massive layoffs.
This former executive says that in the late 1970s, the Times was "the most powerful advertising medium on earth."
As dailies have lost advertising and revenue, none deserve such an accolade now.
The former Tribune Co., now named tronc, bought the Times in the year 2000 in an $8 billion cash and stock deal. But almost from the beginning, the Chicago top management and the Times bosses have feuded, sometimes openly. In 2015, tronc (then named Tribune Publishing) bought the U-T, nine weeklies, and digital properties in Southern California for $85 million.
The U-T has been run by the Times, much to the chagrin of some U-T employees. In battles between Chicago and L.A., the U-T has generally sided with the Times.