Announcement hot on the heels of layoff plans

The Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times has made it official, naming Russ Stanton as its editor.

Company has also realigned its business leadership in an effort to foster more collaboration and streamlined management of its three business units: print, interactive and targeted media (e.g., specialty publications including its Spanish-language daily Hoy).

Dave Murphy, the Times’ general manager and exec veep of advertising sales, will be exiting the paper once a successor is named, the paper said.

The Times made the announcement Thursday, a day after the mandate came down from parent company Tribune Co. that the newspaper shed 100-150 jobs as part of a broader plan to lay off 400-500 people in Tribune’s publishing unit and corporate operations (Daily Variety, Feb. 14). The cuts come as revenue at Tribune’s newspapers has dropped sharply in the past year.

Another grim sign of the health of the newspaper biz came Thursday when the New York Times confirmed it will ax about 100 newsroom jobs, or 7.5% of its total editorial staff of 1,332, this year. The Gray Lady said it hoped to implement the cuts through voluntary buyouts and attrition, but it acknowledged that layoffs are possible.

At the L.A. Times, Stanton succeeds James O’Shea, who was ousted last month after a little more than a year when he balked at making budget cuts at the direction of publisher David Hiller. Stanton is the fourth editor to take the helm of the Times during the past three years, following the departures of John Carroll in 2005, Dean Baquet in 2006 and O’Shea.

Stanton, who reports to Hiller, has spent the past year serving as innovation editor for the Times, overseeing editorial for its online operations, among other duties. He’s been with the paper since 1997, working in the Orange County and L.A. business sections.

“This is a critical period for the Times — in fact for all news media — as we change and grow and show we can sustain the future of one of the truly great news franchises in America,” said Hiller. “Russ Stanton combines great personal leadership, communication skills, the highest journalistic standards and a commitment to excellence, and has been championing much of our work to become a truly multimedia news organization that’s a relevant and engaging part of the 24-hour-a-day world of news and information.”

In his comments to the staff, Stanton made it clear that his top priorities include merging the Times’ print and online editorial operations.

“Our two newsrooms need to and will become one,” Stanton said in addressing the newsroom Thursday. “The people in them need to better understand and work together,” though he also emphasized the need to recognize “the unique traits of each medium.”

One question lingering at the Times is how the decision to tap Stanton will affect the other front-runner for the job, managing editor John Arthur. Times insiders noted that many on the editorial staff seemed divided into two camps, those rooting for Stanton and those for Arthur.

Stanton also faces the immediate challenge of maintaining morale as layoffs and staff buyouts are implemented. Given that Stanton’s predecessors ankled in opposition to budget cuts, newsroom insiders said he will have to prove his willingness to go to bat for maintaining a strong editorial staff and high journalistic standards.

Meanwhile, in the business operations restructuring, Jack Klunder, a longtime circulation exec at the paper, has been appointed to a newly created post as prexy of Los Angeles Times Newspaper, overseeing the core print business, including circulation and operations. Murphy will report to Klunder for the remainder of his time at the paper.

Bob Bellack has been named prexy of digital media, classified and development, focusing on acquisitions, partnerships, mobile and digital growth areas such as Web-based classified advertising.

Bellack previously had digital media responsibilities but also served as the paper’s chief financial officer. That CFO role has been taken over by Chris Avetisian, formerly director of financial planning and analysis, to allow Bellack to zero in on growing the website and digital businesses. Rob Barrett, a lieutenant of Bellack’s, has been promoted to senior veep of interactive.

John O’Loughlin has been named prexy of targeted media, overseeing the Times’ specialty publishing operations including the Spanish-language Hoy, Times Community Newspapers, the L.A. wing of Tribune direct marketing and Metromix entertainment and lifestyle website. O’Loughlin will continue to head the L.A. Times Media Group’s marketing, strategy, planning and research efforts.

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