Former L.A. Times editor Russ Stanton will be the new vice president of content for Southern California Public Radio’s KPCC.
The hire is part of an aggressive effort by the nonprofit news organization to become the preeminent regional source for both broadcast and online news — with deeper, more enterprising and investigative coverage.
"I am very excited to be joining the staff of my favorite radio station and in particular a newsroom that's growing and an organization that's fairly down the path of developing a sustainable business model to produce high-quality" journalism, Stanton said in an interview today.
In his new role, Stanton will work to ensure the KPCC newsroom works in synergy along broadcast, digital and live-event platforms, said SCPR president and CEO Bill Davis. One of Stanton’s first tasks will be to select an executive editor, who will supervise the day-to-day operations of the newsroom on both the broadcast and digital platform, Davis said.
“He really has some strong insights on how to expand digital audiences,” Davis said. “That was something I thought complemented the skill set we already have here at SCPR. We have a lot of people with strong broadcast backgrounds. He comes with a strong digital background.”
Stanton, 53, stepped down as editor and executive vice president of the Times on Dec. 23. The veteran newsman joined the paper in 1997 as an Orange County business reporter. He headed the organization for four tumultuous years and during that time it expanded its digital reach to more than 17 million readers online and won three Pulitzer Prizes, including the Public Service Award; it also shed hundreds of employees being weighed down by the bankruptcy of its parent company, Tribune Co.
Davis said Stanton will bring valuable experience to KPCC as it navigates into unknown territory and works to mirror its award-winning radio news coverage to the Web.
"The key is going to be to figure out how we marry these two distinctly different mediums in a way that capitalizes on the strengths of the other," Stanton said. He said he is particularly fascinated by the engagement and relationship radio listeners have with the station's personalities, and wants to see how KPCC can replicate that into a similar digital experience.
Stanton was selected in a national search from more than 100 applicants; his first day at the station is Feb. 6.
KPCC’s director of digital media Alex Schaffert said Stanton will be a “huge unifying figure in the newsroom between broadcast and digital.”
“It’s great that we’re hiring somebody from the print world. It allows us to avoid minefields because print has gone through a 15-year process of making the transition to digital,” Schaffert said. “It’s going to give us an opportunity to learn from that.”
Stanton led the Times during what has been a difficult time for the newspaper industry; declining circulation and advertising revenue has forced many to shutter or drastically shrink their staffs. Over Stanton’s four years at the helm, the Times cut its staff by nearly 40 percent, from more than 900 people to about 550.
It looks to be a different story for Stanton at KPCC, which primarily relies on the public’s financial support rather than advertising revenue to report the news of Southern California.
SCPR's board has approved a plan to raise $24 million over four years in order to more than double its 57-person newsroom by July 1, 2014, said KPCC's program director Craig Curtis. The company has already raised more than $8 million so far, and it hired 20 people for its news department in the last year, he said. KPCC plans to hire at least 13 more news positions — including producers, editors, bloggers, and hosts — in the coming year, Curtis said.
“Over the course of the past decade you have seen a contraction of journalistic coverage both in daily newspapers and within commercial television and radio stations — and this has created a void for SCPR to fill,” Davis said. “In-depth news coverage is something that is lacking here in Southern California, and we have the opportunity to play not only a significant role, but a leading role in providing that here.”
KPCC’s Patt Morrison, who also writes for the Times, said Stanton is a man with “journalistic chops and management chops.”
“He brings a big scope...” Morrison said, referring to Stanton's experience in leading one of the nation’s largest news operations. “He can see everything from a journalistic point of view and deliver that to listeners as a priority.”
SCPR was created in 2000 and has since won 292 regional and national awards for journalistic excellence. It is now the most-listened-to public radio station in Southern California. The organization has worked to expand its reach in various ways. Last month, KPCC announced a new partnership with NBC to work on investigative stories.