National News

The Los Angeles Times Has (Another) New Editor

Posted January 31, 2018 2:00 p.m. EST

On his first day as the new editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times, Jim Kirk held a meeting. His newsroom had suffered through several months of turmoil — and staff members had many questions.

One of the most poignant came from a columnist, Robin Abcarian: Had Kirk ever been a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit?

“No,” he replied, which Abcarian said prompted a round of applause.

Her question, Abcarian said in a telephone interview on Tuesday, was an earnest one. It came less than two weeks after Ross Levinsohn, who was named The Times’ publisher in August, was put on leave after a National Public Radio article detailed sexual harassment allegations made against him while he worked at other companies. (The New York Times reported this week that Tronc — the parent company of the Los Angeles Times — vetted Levinsohn before he was hired, but the company was not aware that he had twice been a defendant in sexual harassment lawsuits.)

Kirk, who had recently served as the interim executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, replaced Lewis D’Vorkin.

During his brief tenure as executive editor, D’Vorkin had sown widespread distrust and discontent among members of the newsroom. Some at the Los Angeles Times feared he would focus more on pageviews and advertising than on quality journalism.

In a statement announcing the changes on Monday, Justin C. Dearborn, the chief executive of Tronc, sought to reassure the staff, saying, “We are continuing to invest in high-quality journalism, which will always be the company’s top priority.”

For his part, Kirk, 52, conveyed a willingness to improve morale and calm tensions in an interview with the The New York Times media reporter Sydney Ember.

“My message to the newsroom will be that we will be working together as one team starting tomorrow to do the best work we can,” he said one day before assuming control.

Many members of the newsroom seemed to welcome Kirk’s conciliatory attempts to move forward. And media experts, who have watched the drama unfold at the Los Angeles Times, have noted the importance of its reporters continuing to produce watchdog journalism.

As a New York Times article published on Tuesday noted, some believe that Los Angeles has, at times, lacked strong institutions that can bind it together. For decades, the newspaper has been one such cohesive force.