In another dramatic shake-up at the Los Angeles Times, Chicago journalist Jim Kirk will be named editor in chief of the newspaper, replacing Lewis D’Vorkin, who will move to a position within the parent company.
The move — which is expected to be announced Monday— follows two weeks of turmoil at The Times, including a unionization vote by newsroom employees and accelerating hostilities between D’Vorkin and his staff.
Kirk, who previously served as publisher and editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, joined The Times’ parent company, Tronc, in August. He was named interim editor of The Times on Aug. 21 after a sweeping shake-up of top editors, but Kirk stepped aside after D’Vorkin joined The Times in early November.
This time around, Kirk, 52, is being named the permanent editor to lead The Times’ newsroom, said Marisa Kollias, spokesperson for Tronc.
The shake-up comes after years of staff cutbacks and management changes at the newspaper. Kirk becomes the third top editor at The Times in less than six months.
He is a native of the Chicago suburb of Dolton, Ill., and a graduate of Illinois State University. He served as Midwest managing editor for Adweek and then as a reporter for the Sun-Times. He also worked at the Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg News, the Chicago News Cooperative and Crain’s Chicago Business before rejoining the Sun-Times in 2012, after the paper was purchased by Michael Ferro, who is now the chairman of Tronc. He was named interim editor of the New York Daily News less than two weeks ago.
D’Vorkin, 65, who was the chief product officer at Forbes until October, becomes chief content officer for Tronc. He will develop content for digital and mobile consumers, according to the company.
D’Vorkin’s three-month tenure at The Times was stormy, marked by two combative newsroomwide staff meetings. In one, D’Vorkin appeared angry that someone had leaked a recording of the first staff meeting to a New York Times reporter and he dressed down the staff, saying whoever leaked the recording was “morally bankrupt.”
In addition, the newsroom has become alarmed by the hiring in recent months of a handful of news executives.
Those high-level hires have not been announced to the newsroom, sparking suspicion about the company’s motives for the new team. The unrest attracted the attention of other major publications, including the Washington Post, Huffington Post and the New York Times.
Reporters and editors have been worried that Tronc was building a shadow newsroom in an effort to blur the lines between news and advertising in a bid to boost revenue. Editors and reporters have asked questions about the business-side operation, but D’Vorkin and other Tronc executives declined to discuss their plans.
Traditionally, a virtual wall separates the newsroom from the business executives, including the ad sales team, as a way to protect the journalists and maintain credibility with readers.
“We are continuing to invest in high-quality journalism, which will always be the company’s top priority,” Justin Dearborn, Tronc’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“Jim Kirk is a talented news veteran who is the ideal person to lead the Los Angeles Times newsroom,” Dearborn added. "We believe his established passion for news, and his management experience with big-city news teams, make him uniquely qualified."
Kirk will report to Tronc President Tim Knight, according to Kollias.
The latest management turnover will result in a new role for The Times’ recently installed president, Mickie Rosen. She joined the news organization in October after Tronc hired former Yahoo and News Corp. executive Ross Levinsohn as publisher and chief executive of The Times. In her new position, Rosen will work on the company’s digital strategy, according to a person familiar with the plan.
Several recently hired but unannounced senior editors that D’Vorkin had recruited are in flux or have decided not to join the organization after all. Louise Story, a former investigative reporter at the New York Times who was listed in a company directory as a managing editor; is no longer joining Tronc, according to the knowledgeable person. But unclear is the status of Sylvester Monroe, formerly an assignment editor at the Washington Post, who has been working in the Los Angeles Times building for the last few weeks. The status of Bruce Upbin, who worked with D'Vorkin at Forbes as technology editor, has yet to be decided, said another knowledgeable person.
The situation with D’Vorkin appeared to come to a head after a withering article about him published Wednesday in the Columbia Journalism Review. The article was titled “LA Journalism’s ‘Prince of Darkness.’”
Later Wednesday, D’Vorkin suspended Kimi Yoshino, the popular business editor for the last four years. No reason was given to the staff about why she was being suspended, prompting her colleagues in the business department to write a letter to D’Vorkin protesting her treatment.
The newsroom voted overwhelmingly this month to join the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.
“The Los Angeles Times Guild would like to congratulate Jim Kirk on being named the next editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times. We also look forward to working together in the future as one team — and we look forward to hearing his plans for the paper,” the steering committee said in a statement.
The latest shake-up comes just 10 days after The Times’ publisher, Ross Levinsohn, was placed on unpaid leave following revelations that he had been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits while he worked at other media companies before joining The Times. People who previously worked with Levinsohn said that he fostered a “frat boy” culture and that he made sexist and homophobic remarks.
Tronc then hired the Sidley Austin law firm to investigate the allegations against Levinsohn made in a detailed report by National Public Radio. Investigators have been interviewing the people who worked for Levinsohn, and the firm’s probe has not been completed, according to two knowledgeable people.