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David Laventhol dead at 81, innovative prize-winning publisher and former Newsday editor

Former Newsday editor and publisher David Laventhol is

Former Newsday editor and publisher David Laventhol is seen during a panel discussion about the newspaper's past on June 30, 2003, at the paper's Melville offices. Laventhol, 81, died Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler

David Laventhol -- a former editor and publisher of Newsday who oversaw the suburban newspaper's move into New York City and helped it win several Pulitzer Prizes -- has died.

Laventhol, of Manhattan, died Wednesday. He was 81.

Revered by colleagues as a pioneering editor who built Newsday into a journalistic powerhouse in the 1970s and created the New York City edition, Laventhol left in 1985 for the West Coast. He eventually became publisher of the Los Angeles Times and president of the Times Mirror Co.

"Dave Laventhol was a great publisher because he made public service the mission of the newspaper," said Charlotte Hall, a former vice president and managing editor at Newsday while Laventhol was the publisher. "He was an editor's dream. He valued aggressive journalism, protected the newsroom, thought big and committed resources to excellence."

The Philadelphia native earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a master's degree from the University of Minnesota. He came to Newsday in 1969 as associate editor under publisher Bill Moyers, having been an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post. He also served as city editor of the New York Herald Tribune.

Laventhol moved up the ranks to become Newsday's editor. He established a number of staples at Newsday, including Part II, a lifestyle and entertainment section that debuted in 1970, and the Sunday edition, which launched in 1972.

"Dave Laventhol was Newsday," said Les Payne, a 37-year veteran of the newspaper and former top editor who ran New York Newsday and worked under Laventhol on "The Heroin Trail," the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning series. "Laventhol was the person that made Newsday great almost single-handedly," Payne said.

Under Laventhol's direction, Newsday increased coverage of world affairs. He oversaw the creation and expansion of the national and foreign desks.

Anthony Insolia, who succeeded Laventhol as editor of Newsday, called Laventhol a "very talented individual" with a vision for greatness.

"He was a great newspaperman . . . he was wonderful for Newsday," Insolia said Wednesday night. "He was basically a shy individual, but he had a terrific vision about what journalism was all about."

Laventhol was the publisher at the Los Angeles Times from 1989 to 1994. The Times' executive editor during that period, Shelby Coffey, described Laventhol as an innovator.

Laventhol played a crucial role in that newspaper's expansion of its reach in Southern California, Coffey said.

It was Laventhol, Coffey said, who helped compile a special section after the Los Angeles riots in 1992 that was part of the newspaper's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage. "He was a great builder and expander and loved doing that at Newsday," Coffey said.

With Candice Ruud

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