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Changes at the top

April 23, 2008 | 11:37 am

Editor Russ Stanton's memo to staff below names John Arthur to the new position of executive editor and Davan Maharaj to replace Arthur as managing editor:

The process of re-imagining our formidable newsgathering operations for the digital age is rooted in having the right people in place to pull off this monumental challenge. Today, I’m naming two of our outstanding leaders to new posts. These will be followed in the coming weeks with a series of other announcements that will enhance and solidify our leadership team for Editorial.

John Arthur, our managing editor since July 2007, is being named to the new position of executive editor, effective immediately.

He will continue in his role as Page One editor, where his terrific news judgment and creativity are helping us produce an increasingly dynamic — and different — front page to meet the changing needs and interests of our readers. In addition, he will have ultimate responsibility for our important production functions, including the A1 desk, the copy and design desks, and the photography department. The heads of those departments will report to John.

John also will apply his formidable journalistic skills in helping set the overall strategy for our newsgathering operation, across all mediums. He was one of the first senior-level editors to take an interest in latimes.com. And he will be intimately involved in shaping our coverage of stories and in our deployment of resources, including personnel decisions. He will continue to report to, and work closely with, me.

As I noted in my initial remarks to you back in February, John embodies the can-do spirit and dedication that have made this a great newspaper.

John joined The Times in 1986 as an assistant city editor of our Orange County edition. In 1992, he moved to the National Desk, where he was an assistant national editor. He didn't stay there long, however, being promoted in 1993 to editor of the Times Valley edition. In 1997 he was named one of the paper's four managing editors, with responsibility for the Ventura, Orange County and Valley Editions as well as oversight of the Travel and Sports sections and the Times National Edition.

From 2000 to 2005, he served as the paper's deputy Page One editor/nights. He was named Page One editor in 2005, retaining the rank of assistant managing editor, a post he held until being named managing editor in July 2007.

Above all, John is a newshound with tremendous instincts. While assigned to the Valley Edition, he helped direct coverage of the Northridge earthquake and the North Hollywood shootout. The Times won Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of each of those breaking-news stories.

John grew up in New York and lived for 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he worked for the San Francisco Examiner and the Pittsburg (Calif.) Post-Dispatch (where he had a rookie sports editor named Steve Lopez). John is a 1970 graduate of Stanford University.

Joining John at the top of the masthead is Davan Maharaj, our business editor since February 2007, who becomes managing editor, effective immediately.

In this key position, Davan will assume oversight of Foreign, National, Metro, Sports, Business, and Science  — shaping coverage, deploying people and overseeing personnel decisions along with me and John. The editors of these sections will report to Davan. He will also supervise the formation of the new topic teams that we will be rolling out later this year.

One of Davan’s primary responsibilities will be to work with the section editors to keep the story pipeline to A1 and John, and the website and Meredith Artley, full of the great journalism we produce each day. He will report to me.

Davan’s outstanding management and editing skills make him the ideal person to take on this assignment. His broad range of experience will serve him and his new departments well. Working for The Times from Orange County, Los Angeles and East Africa, he reported with distinction in each of these areas.

Among the highlights from his more than 20 years of reporting was the six-part series “Living on Pennies,” his collaboration with photographer Francine Orr, which won the 2005 Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing. The series inspired readers to send tens of thousands of dollars to aid people and agencies working in Africa. Closer to home, Davan’s investigative piece about a Leisure World attorney who inherited millions of dollars in stock, land and other “gifts” from his clients changed California probate law.

Once Davan put down his notebook, he became an assistant editor in Foreign, helping supervise coverage around the world, and then served in Business, first as a deputy editor, then as section editor.

Under his leadership, Business refocused its coverage on consumer issues, producing a stream of A1 stories and a redesigned Sunday section that has been a big hit with readers. Business has been among the most advanced departments in improving our report on latimes.com, a crucial part of our success going forward, and has excelled at developing nontraditional ways of telling stories in print.

“Nontraditional” is a good word to describe the man who has assembled that resume. The titan from Trinidad holds a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee and a master's degree in law from Yale University, one of the many reasons he can be so persuasive.

Anyone who has worked closely with Davan knows him as a passionate advocate for good stories, and for the people who work hard to produce them. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious.  There’s no question that we are engaged in serious challenges for our industry, but Davan manages to keep things upbeat and fun amid the daily pressures we face.

I expect to name his successor in the next couple of weeks.

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