William K. Marimow, who helped lead The Sun to three Pulitzer Prizes over a decade, was replaced yesterday as editor of the paper by Timothy A. Franklin, editor of the Orlando Sentinel.
Denise E. Palmer, the Sun's publisher and chief executive, praised Marimow's performance and described Franklin as a leader who would carry the paper forward.
The change in leadership was immediate. Marimow's final day was yesterday.
"It's the publisher's prerogative to have the editor that the publisher wants. In this case, the publisher has exercised her prerogative. I respect that," said Marimow, 56, who said he had been told Monday that he was being replaced. "I'm committed to leaving here in a way that will sustain the excellent journalism being done by The Sun."
Marimow, who won two Pulitzers as a reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer, led The Sun to three Pulitzer finalists and one Pulitzer Prize last year. Diana K. Sugg, a medical reporter for the paper, won journalism's highest honor for a series of health care articles.
Palmer announced the changes in a memo to employees at 10:29 a.m. because word of Marimow's departure had leaked, she said.
She addressed a room packed with editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists and other staff members at a tense 2 p.m. meeting, and faced skeptical questioning about her decision.
Palmer said her relationship with Marimow, the paper's senior newsroom executive, failed to evolve into a smoothly functioning partnership since her appointment as publisher in September 2002.
The relationship was "not where I felt it needed to be going forward," Palmer told the staff. "Bill is a great journalist. This has nothing to do with Bill's journalism credentials; they are impeccable. ... It had to do with the relationship between the editor and me. It is about personality, fit, style.
"One of the prerogatives of the publisher is that I get to pick my senior management team," she said.
Speaking to the staff at a late- afternoon meeting, Franklin praised The Sun as a newspaper with a great tradition of quality journalism and said he hoped to build on that.
Franklin, 43, said he expects to make organizational changes in the newsroom and possibly redesign the paper, and that he plans to continue The Sun's emphasis on enterprise and investigative journalism.
He said he hopes to work in a collegial manner to improve every section of the paper.
"As good as this newspaper is, I sincerely think it can be better," Franklin said. "I want this paper to be ... the best regional paper in America.
"I am not some apparatchik, I am not a bureaucrat, I am not an accountant, I am a journalist," he said.
Franklin said he first discussed the possibility of becoming editor of The Sun in an informal phone conversation with Palmer a couple of months ago.
Marimow joined The Sun in 1993 as metro editor and served in other senior editing roles before being named editor of the paper in 2000.
At an impromptu newsroom gathering yesterday morning, Marimow said he did not know what prompted his firing but that he respected Palmer's right to choose the editor. And he praised Franklin.
He said he did not know that his job was in jeopardy until Palmer told him of her decision Monday afternoon.
"Out of adversity comes great strength," Marimow said. "This is definitely adversity for us - definitely adversity for me."
Asked about budget pressures from the Tribune Co., The Sun's corporate parent in Chicago, Marimow said: "We've tightened our belt, judiciously, in a way that has made everyone a little uncomfortable but hasn't hurt our journalism."
Palmer said she had been thinking about replacing Marimow "a lot the last few months."
Asked to elaborate on issues that might have led to her decision, she declined. "I am not going to stand up here and take any shots at Bill Marimow because he doesn't deserve it," she said.
Palmer said the switch did not involve Marimow's past opposition to layoffs within the newsroom. Neither, she said, was there any specific disagreement over the newspaper's coverage that precipitated his firing.
"What you all do in news is the heart and soul of the newspaper," Palmer told newsroom staff. "The quality of journalism here has never been in doubt. Nothing about this announcement has anything to do with the quality of what you do."
Palmer said Franklin's appointment was a recognition of the caliber of the journalism performed under his leadership at the Orlando Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune, both Tribune Co. newspapers, and of the warmth he has inspired in colleagues there.
Palmer said she is encouraging Franklin to "take a very holistic look" at The Sun and to make whatever broad changes he thinks are necessary to attract a readership that includes more young readers without driving away current subscribers.