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Stanton named Times' 14th editor

With the newspaper industry in turmoil, the California native has a mandate to integrate print and latimes.com.

February 15, 2008|Thomas S. Mulligan and Martin Zimmerman | Times Staff Writers

Russ Stanton, a 10-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times who has been in charge of invigorating its website, on Thursday became the newspaper's 14th editor.

Stanton will lead a staff chafing from the recent exit of its third editor in less than three years and worried about job cuts. Former Editor James O'Shea and Publisher David D. Hiller parted ways Jan. 21 after a disagreement over whether the editorial budget should shrink.

The 49-year-old Stanton referred to "the high turnover rate in this job" in remarks he delivered in the paper's third-floor newsroom in downtown Los Angeles.

"Like most of you, I was attracted to this great journalistic institution because of its size, reach and reputation," he said. "I have grown tired and am now hopping mad over this seemingly endless 'Groundhog Day' nightmare. We in the newsroom need to figure out how to break this self-defeating cycle before it does indeed result in our defeat."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, February 17, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Times executive appointments: In an article in Friday's Section A about Russ Stanton being named The Times' 14th editor, the last name of Los Angeles Times Media Group's marketing chief John O'Loughlin was misspelled as O'Laughlin.

Hiller picked Stanton, a former Times business editor, over two other in-house candidates: Managing Editor John Arthur, 60, and Editorial Page Editor Jim Newton, 44. Hiller said the "decisive factor" in tapping Stanton was that he could "best lead change in the newsroom at a time of really amazing change and tumult" in the industry.

Hiller also shook up The Times' business side Thursday, with the departure of his most senior subordinate and the elevation of other executives.

The changes came two months after an $8.2-billion deal took Times parent Tribune Co. private in a partnership between Chicago billionaire Sam Zell and an employee stock ownership plan. Although Tribune is profitable, the deal left it laden with $13 billion of debt at a time when the economy is sagging and advertising revenue is steadily declining at the company's nine newspapers and 23 television stations, as it is throughout the media industry.

The 100 to 150 job cuts that will be made in coming weeks in the Los Angeles Times Media Group -- which includes Spanish-language Hoy, entertainment guide Metromix and community newspapers -- are part of a companywide cost-cutting process prompted by worse-than-expected revenue and cash flow.

Zell and Hiller have alluded to deteriorating results at Tribune and The Times, but the company has released no financial reports this year. It is expected to report its full-year 2007 results in late February or early March.

Latimes.com, the paper's online edition, has been adding readers at about a 20% annualized clip recently, Stanton said. The print version of The Times, the nation's fourth-largest daily, however, has seen daily circulation fall to about 780,000 from a peak of more than 1.1 million in the early 1990s, though it has shown a slight improvement recently.

The print newspaper generates more than 90% of The Times' revenue, but Hiller noted that the share from online publishing has been growing rapidly.

"We are literally in a battle to save the future of this great newspaper and we have to change to survive and thrive in the new world," Hiller said in an interview Thursday.

Stanton doesn't have the same range of experience as many of his predecessors, who before moving into the editor's chair had won Pulitzer Prizes and other accolades for their own reporting or coverage they supervised. High-visibility assignments covering wars or Washington traditionally have been steppingstones to the top job at The Times and other large newspapers.

In an interview, Stanton said he might be viewed as an unconventional choice.

"We have literally dozens of people here who have been involved in winning Pulitzer Prizes in recent years," he said. "What I bring to the table is an understanding of our print newsroom, our website and the Internet, and how we can make those three things work together to ensure that we're going to be around for another 126 years."

Stanton indicated that the paper, operating with about one-third fewer staffers than a decade ago, would need to cut back reporting in some areas. He declined to specify where those rollbacks might come but said The Times would beef up coverage of Southern California.

Some in the newsroom worried that finances would crimp the ambitious foreign and national coverage that has long been part of The Times' signature. Stanton said, however, that the paper needed "to retain some of the hallmarks of our coverage, such as foreign and national reports."

Times staffers said the paper's recent struggles had sapped morale and expressed hope that the new editor would be a positive force.

"I would say the atmosphere here is as bad as I have ever seen it," said Greg Krikorian, who has worked as a reporter and editor during his 18 years at The Times. "So the hope is Russ will bring some stability to what has been a long and tough ride for this paper. He's smart, he's engaged and he knows this place."

Meredith Artley, executive editor of latimes.com, said one of Stanton's strengths "is that he understands the urgency of the situation we're in."

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