Los Angeles Times editor to step down this month

LOS ANGELES Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:52pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton will step down this month and be replaced by the managing editor for news, the newspaper said on Tuesday.

Stanton has been editor since 2007, guiding the paper during a tumultuous period in which its parent, Tribune Co, has been mired in bankruptcy proceedings and the newsroom has weathered multiple rounds of layoffs.

He will be replaced on December 23 by Davan Maharaj, who has been managing editor for news at the paper since 2008, the Times said in a statement.

One person familiar with the situation told Reuters that further layoffs were expected and that may have been a factor in Stanton's departure.

A spokeswoman for the Times declined to comment on the possibility of layoffs. Stanton, in a media statement, did not give a reason for his pending departure.

In a note to the staff, Stanton stressed the accomplishments during his tenure, including strong growth in online traffic that has given the paper an audience of "more than 17 million readers a month around the world." He also pointed to innovations in video and interactive databases.

Maharaj will become the 15th editor of the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper said. He joined the paper as an intern in 1989 and has served in numerous capacities, including business editor and East Africa correspondent.

Once among the most influential news organizations in the world, the Times has suffered severely from the financial problems that have afflicted most big-city newspapers in the age of the Internet.

Daily print and digital circulation is down to 572,998, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

By comparison, at its peak the newspaper had a circulation of over 1 million in the 1990s.

The Times' parent company, Tribune, slipped into bankruptcy in 2008, less than a year after the long-time controlling shareholders, the Chandler family, sold the company to real estate investor Sam Zell.

The bankruptcy proceedings have dragged on since then, with various creditors unable to agree on a reorganization plan.

The Times' troubles are mirrored at many large newspaper chains. Lee Enterprises, the publisher of 48 daily newspapers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month to refinance nearly $1 billion in debt.

The holding company of MediaNews Group, which owns properties that compete with The Times in Southern California, filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

The owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune said in November that it had signed an agreement to sell the paper to a company owned by local businessman Doug Manchester.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Jonathan Weber in San Francisco: Editing by Peter Bohan)

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