Russ Stanton, vice president of content at public radio station KPCC (89.3 FM), is leaving the operation to take a job at a “for-profit outfit,” Bill Davis, president of KPCC parent Southern California Public Radio, told L.A. Weekly.

Melanie Sill, the station's executive editor, will take over as the top editorial boss at KPCC. Davis said that Stanton did “more in 30 months than most public radio content leaders accomplish in 30 years.”

Davis wouldn't say where Stanton was headed, but he did tell us this:

It's an opportunity for him to scratch an entrepreneurial itch that he's had for as long as I've known him — and he didn't think another opportunity like this would come around again.

Sill is the former editor of the Sacramento Bee as well as the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. At the latter paper, she oversaw the 1995 Pulitzer Prize–winning effort “Boss Hog.” 

When Sill was hired by KPCC in early 2012, she was put in charge of the “day-to-day newsgathering operation across KPCC's broadcast, digital and social media platforms,” the broadcaster said.

Stanton was a prize hire when he came to KPCC in early 2012. He's the respected former editor of the Los Angeles Times, and the station clearly has designs on the audience and reputation of the West Coast's largest newspaper.

But it has been rough going. KPCC has a sterling reputation in radio reporting but has more recently tried to grow its footprint in online news. Public radio audiences (think moneyed, older, white people) and web-based readers (think college kids and hipsters) can be very different things.

As one KPCC employee once put it, “I work at a radio station that's trying to be a website that's run by newspaper people.”

Besides expanding its web presence, one of the station's biggest goals under Stanton was to reel in Latinos, who make up half of L.A. County's population. So KPCC paired popular talk-show host Madeleine Brand with former ESPN broadcaster A Rodriguez.

See also: How KPCC's Quest for Latino Listeners Doomed The Madeleine Brand Show 

It was disastrous, and Brand walked, ending up at rival station KCRW (89.9 FM).

Likewise, wading into the listicle-crazed, sensational world of online news has been perilous for KPCC, which has a sober, intellectual voice on the radio.

Dozens of reporters were hired, and then many were let go. (Stanton, meanwhile, drew a healthy $229,555 salary, plus $13,730 in other compensation, according to Southern California Public Radio's most recent tax returns.)

Still, the station claims the lifeblood of its operation, fundraising, is healthy. Davis sent us the memo he distributed to KPCC employees:

Russ Stanton; Credit: Courtesy of KPCC

Russ Stanton; Credit: Courtesy of KPCC

I'm writing to inform you that our Vice President of Content, Russ Stanton, will be leaving SCPR at the end of month. After two-and-a-half year at the helm, Russ will be leaving to pursue an opportunity in the commercial, for-profit space. Russ's last day at SCPR will be Monday 30 June.

Russ has been a transformative figure at SCPR, accomplishing more in 30 months than most public radio content leaders accomplish in 30 years. And his first decision – to hire Melanie Sill, the former Editor of the Sacramento Bee and the Raleigh News & Observer, as SCPR's Executive Editor – was the foundation upon which the subsequent accomplishments were based. Melanie will succeed Russ as Vice President of Content at SCPR.

Russ and Melanie have led the effort to nearly double the size of SCPR's Content Division in less than three years. In doing so, SCPR has grown into one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse newsrooms in the country, building out full desks covering crime and public safety, emerging communities and immigration, local business, politics and government, education, and health care. And, last but certainly not least, we are in the process of launching our new arts & entertainment program.

When Russ and Melanie came to SCPR, many on the staff worried that, as “newspaper people,” our broadcast audience would suffer. In fact, the result has been the opposite. KPCC's broadcast audience has grown throughout their tenure and now stands at all-time highs by whatever measure you care to choose: AQH, AQH Share, Weekly Cume, Core Audience Loyalty, etc. Russ and Melanie also championed the launch of Take Two, the award-winning daily newsmagazine that has helped significantly increase the Latino percentage of KPCC's audience and is now heard on a daily basis Los Vegas, as well as in Seattle.

Under Russ and Melanie's direction, SCPR significantly increased its presence on digital and mobile digital platforms. SCPR now trails only the LA Times, NBC and CBS in among Los Angeles news sites with well more than 1 million monthly uniques. And they have championed developing such groundbreaking digital tools as FireTracker, which has been embedded on news websites around the world including The New York Times and London Daily Mail, and the KPCC iPad app, which is the first in public media to marry audio, video, photography, graphics and text into a high-quality user experience.

Please join me in thanking Russ Stanton for his outstanding contributions to SCPR and wishing him well in the next chapter of his professional life. Also, please join me in congratulating Melanie Sill on her new assignment as she continues to build upon SCPR's tradition of success as LA's leading public broadcasting institution — and as a national model for digital innovation in public service journalism.

Editor's note: While we at the Weekly wish both KPCC and Russ Stanton well, we're a bit confused by the part in Bill Davis' note where he suggests Southern California Public Radio's unique visits “trail only the L.A. Times, NBC and CBS in among [sic] Los Angeles news sites.” Quantcast suggests it's actually that comes in second to the L.A. Times locally — we notch 4 million unique visits a month. That's a few million more than both the NBC and ABC affiliates in L.A. and, we suspect, significantly more than either CBS Los Angeles or Southern California Public Radio, neither of which has a verified Quantcast account. So, there's that.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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