By: Joe Strupp
Editorial Pages Editor James Newton of the Los Angeles Times will leave the paper to finish work on a book, he revealed today in a memo to staffers. His departure will mark the third change in the position in less than three years.
Newton, appointed just 14 months ago, succeeded Andres Martinez, who held the post from 2005 to 2007. Martinez replaced Michael Kinsley, who had served from April 2004 to late 2005.
“I leave you with sadness and some reservations, but mostly with an overwhelming sense of pride at the work my colleagues on these pages have produced over the past year,” Newton wrote in a memo to staffers provided to E&P and first posted on the Poynter.org Romenesko site. “Week in, week out, they have generated journalism of conscience and clarity, eloquence and force. Their work, in both editorials and Op-Eds, print and web, is full of wisdom and erudition. It is acutely respectful of readers.”
Newton, who plans to finish a book on President Dwight Eisenhower, also boasted in his memo about the editorial pages’ influence, while noting vaguely some difficulties that led to his departure:
“It is no accident that candidates at all levels court our endorsement; that interest groups and intellectuals ask us to give space to their arguments; that the mayor, school superintendent and police chief, along with community activists of all types, seek our support for their programs; that the governor starts each morning with the editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times. In a city and state eager for cogent, reasoned argument and non-partisan guidance, the writers and editors of these pages have consistently supplied them. I am honored to have worked with this talented group.
“The external difficulties these days are known to all of you, and I won?t belabor them here. Let me say only that it?s clear to me, as it is to everyone, that the paper still has challenges ahead. The publisher and I have discussed those difficulties, and he is entitled to an editorial page editor who shares his vision on how best to confront them.”
“We are all very grateful to Jim not only for his superb captaining of our opinion pages, but for a truly extraordinary career with The Times over the past 19 years,” Publisher David Hiller stated in his own staff memo provided to E&P. “Jim is clearly one of the most talented, experienced, and highly regarded journalists, editors, and authors of an entire generation. I am personally grateful to Jim for agreeing to extend his service to The Times when I asked him last year. We will miss Jim as a colleague but keep him as a friend, and wish him and Ike all the success in the world.”
Hiller said that Newton would remain on the job through July, and a replacement would be named in the coming weeks.