updated 11/8/2006 3:28:00 PM ET 2006-11-08T20:28:00

The editor of Philadelphia’s largest newspaper will step down at the end of the year as the company’s new owners seek contract concessions, including deep newsroom cuts, in response to falling circulation and advertising revenue.

Philadelphia Inquirer editor Amanda Bennett will be replaced by Bill Marimow, a former Baltimore Sun editor and Inquirer city editor who is now ombudsman at National Public Radio, the paper announced Wednesday.

“Bill’s background and unique set of skills made him the perfect individual to lead the Inquirer into its next great era of journalism,” Brian Tierney, chairman and chief executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, the paper’s owner, said in a statement.

Bennett came to the Inquirer, then owned by Knight-Ridder Inc., as editor in June 2003.

The paper’s first female editor, she previously was editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky and was a longtime reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Asked by staffers how long she intended to stay, Bennett, 53, said at the time of her hiring that she intended to retire from the Inquirer.

“Bill Marimow is a fine journalist, and an old friend. The paper is in good hands,” Bennett said in a statement.

Marimow, 59, had worked at the Inquirer for 21 years, during which he helped the paper win two Pulitzer Prizes: one for investigative reporting on attacks by city police dogs and one for public service reporting on police abuses of power.

“Philadelphia is my hometown, and the Inquirer is where I learned how to be a reporter,” Marimow said in a statement. “Returning to this great city and this excellent newspaper is an honor and a thrill.”

Bennett’s announcement came one day after Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet, who had defied Times’ parent Tribune Co. on slashing newsroom jobs, was forced to resign.

Bennett is leaving in Philadelphia as the Inquirer is bracing for layoffs.

The paper’s department heads have been told by management to be prepared for as many as 150 people to be laid off. Through buyouts last year, the Inquirer had already reduced its editorial staff by about 15 percent, from 500 to 425. Its tabloid sister paper, the Philadelphia Daily News, had its editorial staff cut 19 percent, from 130 to 105.

Philadelphia Media Holdings — an investment group made up of Tierney, a former public relations executive; luxury homebuilder Bruce Toll and other local investors — bought the two dailies, their Web site and sister properties from McClatchy Co. in June in a deal valued at $562 million.

Tierney expressed optimism after the sale was announced, saying he wanted to invest in the newspapers to ensure their continued growth.

But last month, he said advertising revenues were down and the owners needed to cut costs to meet their bank obligations. Citing negotiations with the newspapers’ unions, Tierney said the company needed to restructure labor contracts and the work force.

Meanwhile, the newspapers’ union has been negotiating with management to break an impasse over issues such as job cuts, a pension freeze, the elimination of seniority status for layoffs and the potential merger of the two papers’ editorial departments.

For the six months ended Sept. 30, the Inquirer’s weekday circulation fell 7.6 percent to nearly 331,000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It is the second-largest percentage drop among the nation’s 20 largest newspapers, after the Los Angeles Times, which fell by 8 percent.

The Inquirer won 17 Pulitzer Prizes in 18 years under former editor Gene Roberts, who left in 1990. The paper has had four editors since, including Maxwell E.P. King, Robert J. Rosenthal and Walker Lundy, whom Bennett replaced.

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