The biggest newspaper in the West, the Los Angeles Times, suddenly has a new publisher and a new editor in chief.
Davan Maharaj, who has held both jobs since March 2016, was dismissed on Monday. So were several of his top deputies at the paper, including the managing editor and the deputy managing editor for digital.
Former Yahoo and Fox Interactive Media executive Ross Levinsohn is taking over the paper as publisher and CEO. Jim Kirk is taking over as executive editor on an interim basis.
Kirk was previously the editor and publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Levinsohn told CNNMoney that he will try to position the Los Angeles Times for “sustainable, long-term growth.”
“We’re in a moment where the need for the L.A. Times — for journalism, for facts and for reporting — has never been greater, and I see so much potential to grow our impact,” Levinsohn said.
He said he’d seek to invest more in “groundbreaking journalism” about entertainment, art, tech, climate change, and other subject matter.
But staffers at the Times can be forgiven if they are skeptical. The newsroom has suffered through many rounds of cutbacks over the years, including buyouts as recently as this summer, and the paper’s own story about the changes on Monday cited “flagging morale.”
The shake-up felt sudden, but it was a long time coming. Maharaj repeatedly clashed with Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn, chairman Michael Ferro and others at the parent company.
Tronc, previously known as Tribune Publishing, owns nine daily newspapers, and the Los Angeles Times is the biggest one.
Maharaj became editor in chief in 2011 and gained the publisher job in 2016. He was a polarizing presence at the newspaper, supported by some staffers but maligned by many detractors.
A lengthy feature article in Los Angeles magazine last year described how the Times newsroom, with Maharaj in charge, “has been overtaken by fear.”
Recently, according to the authoritative local blog LAObserved, there “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.”
Dearborn told Maharaj he was fired at a breakfast meeting in Los Angeles on Monday.
Maharaj did not respond to requests for comment. And a Tronc spokesman declined to describe the reasons for Maharaj’s dismissal.
In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Maharaj pointed to recent investigative journalist hires and new digital extensions as evidence of the Times’ ambitions.
“We have to keep the print product vibrant, because it also provides most of the revenue right now,” he said.
But on the web, the Times is venturing into podcasting and documentary filmmaking through deals with other companies.
–Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman contributed reporting.