C. David Burgin was ousted Tuesday as editor of the San Francisco Examiner by publisher William Randolph Hearst III, who will now also assume the title of editor.
Managing Editor Frank McCullough will take over many of Burgin's duties while the paper searches for an executive editor.
Burgin had held the position for seven months. Before that, he had been editor of the Orlando Sentinel.
Hearst announced the shake-up at a meeting of the staff Tuesday afternoon, newsroom sources said. Burgin's plans were not immediately known. He wasn't at the meeting, and colleagues said he was "shocked" by the decision.
But sources said there have been indications that Hearst, grandson of publishing empire founder William Randolph Hearst, has been unhappy with Burgin for some time. They said Burgin kept erratic hours and failed to appear at two important meetings with officials of Hearst Corp., the Examiner's New York-based parent.
Hearst officials couldn't be reached for comment.
Burgin's departure could result in more emphasis on "hard news" in the afternoon Examiner, which trails the morning Chronicle in circulation by a wide margin. He has called columnists "the soul of a newspaper" and played a key role in recruiting several columnists, including Hunter S. Thompson to the newspaper. McCullough, on the other hand, has criticized the expenditure of the paper's resources on what he calls "the exotics."