Some in the newsroom may welcome their publisher's exit. Mr. Hiller found many critics as he pursued reductions in the paper's staff and budget, citing the siege on revenue from digital media and other competition. But his abrupt departure is likely to further destabilize an institution that already stands out among newspapers for dysfunction at the top.
It was only October 2006 when Tribune dispatched Mr. Hiller, then president-publisher of Chicago Tribune Co., to Los Angeles to succeed Jeffrey Johnson, who had begun resisting cuts. Three top editors in a row have left under similar circumstances. During a recent visit by Ad Age, Mr. Hiller evoked battle fatigue.
"You've got to be mentally and emotionally prepared to not just accept but to lead the kind of really hard change that we've been called on to do," he said then. "Not everybody wants to do that, or at least wants to do that forever."
The Times cast today's departure as Mr. Hiller's choice, but also as a part of its acquisition last December by Sam Zell. That deal was partly meant to relieve Tribune from the relentless short-term demands of stockholders, but wound up requiring costly financing that has Tribune scrambling to make payments.
More job cuts
Mr. Hiller has "performed with distinction," Tribune Chief Operating Officer Randy Michaels said in a staff announcement today. "During the last six months, he has helped the Times begin making the transition to new ownership, facing new realities. Part of that transition must now include a new publisher."
Earlier on Monday, the paper began eliminating 250 jobs, including 150 in the newsroom. "The days and weeks ahead will be difficult ones," said editor Russ Stanton in a memo, "filled with pain, anger and sadness."
Tribune also saw changes on Monday in Chicago, where Ann Marie Lipinski resigned as editor of the Chicago Tribune. She was vague about her reasons in a memo to staff. "I began my editorship seven months before 9/11 and in the seven years since have become accustomed and even comfortable with editing and managing through crisis and change," she wrote. "But professionally, this position is not the fit it once was. Personally, my family and I believe it is time."
Gerould Kern, VP-editor of Tribune Publishing since 2003, was named to succeed Ms. Lipinski.