Updated at the bottom with a report stating that Stanton left amid threats of new cuts and the possible institution of a new pay wall at the paper. First posted at 11:49 a.m.

Los Angeles Times editor and executive vice president Russ Stanton is stepping down to spark “the next phase of his career,” whatever that is, the paper's president, Kathy Thomson, announced in the paper today.

Taking his place is a relative unknown among local media watchers, 49-year-old Davan Maharaj, a 22-year veteran of the publication who steps up from managing editor for news.

Stanton was around for three Pulitzer wins and is generally seen as a sober force in an era of upheaval both in and outside the paper, so what gives?

Not sure. We made some calls to find out what the word is. If we find out we'll let you know.

The paper states:

Maharaj's coronation in the Times' newsroom today.; Credit: @kyoshino

Maharaj's coronation in the Times' newsroom today.; Credit: @kyoshino

Stanton has presided over a tumultuous time in journalism, as declining newspaper circulation and advertising revenue forced newsrooms across the country to contract. During his tenure, The Times' newsroom staff shrank from more than 900 people to about 550.

It doesn't say that Stanton is taking off to spend more time with his family, but the Times doesn't exactly state that he's getting a promotion either. Jim Romenesko has the Times' press release here.

Maharaj, a Yale alum, is an award-winner, the Times says:

His six-part series “Living on Pennies,” which explored extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, won the 2005 Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing, and his 2006 investigation into the dubious practices of a Leisure World probate attorney prompted changes in California law.

Local media watcher LA Observed says Maharaj has been on the rise at the paper:

There had been much talk in recent months that Maharaj was on the rise in the eyes of company boss Eddy Hartenstein.

[Added]: Times morning assignment editor Kimi Yoshino tweeted:

Special thanks to Russ for getting us through a rough time. Congrats to Davan, who brings tremendous energy to paper.

[Added, No. 2]: Poynter notes that the last two editor departures were over budget and employee cutbacks (at its fattest, in the mid-1990s, the Times had an estimated 1,500 editorial employees). Is this a sign that more layoffs are to come?

[And more]: The blog street-hassle claims to have some insight on the new guy, which it calls “The Maharaja.” It says Maharaj commutes from Orange County, is a cricket (and Miss Trinidad) fan, and really only gets excited by international news.

[Update at 4:40 p.m.]: The Wrap reports that Stanton quit as a new round of cuts loom and the paper is considering instituting a “pay wall” (e.g. charging you for online content — good luck with that).

The Wrap:

A spokeswoman for the Times told TheWrap on Tuesday, “A paywall is something we're considering.”

The information came on the heels of Stanton's departure, which was related to a new set of cuts to the newsroom. He became the fourth editor in a row – after John Carroll, Dean Baquet and James O'Shea – to leave in the wake of demands for draconian cuts.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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