Peter Barron is stepping down after 17 years as editor of Northern Echo.
His departure comes after the Darlington-based title has been hit by the same cuts as other regional newspapers run by publisher Newsquest.
He is the longest-serving editor in the history of the title.
In recent years photographic staff have been cut, in favour of pictures taken by reporters, and sub-editing has been out-sourced to Newport in Wales.
Barron began his career on the Scunthorpe Telegraph and joined the Echo as a reporter in 1984.
He became editor of the Hartlepool Mail in 1997 and returned to The Echo in January 1999 as editor.
In 2013, he was awarded the MBE and in 2014 he was presented with a lifetime of achievement award by the Society of Editors.
Barron said he plans to continue to work as a journalist and will write a column for the Echo.
He now plans to focus more on his other interests, including writing children’s books.
Newsquest North-East managing director David Coates said: “Peter is quite rightly acknowledged as one of the leading journalists of his generation.
“Under his stewardship The Northern Echo has grown its audience and achieved changes that have improved the lives of people in the North East. I am delighted he will be continuing his long association with the newspaper once he steps down from editing and I will look forward to working with him for many years to come.”
Barron writes today that it is with “a heavy heart” that he has decided to step down and that it was his childhood ambition to edit the “Great Daily of the North”.
He said: “I’ll take most pride from the successful campaigns which the Echo team has fought in recent years, especially raising money to help build the Butterwick Children’s Hospice, banging the drum to bring the Hitachi train-building factory to County Durham, and cutting heart bypass waiting times after the death of friend and colleague Ian Weir who waited eight months for an operation.
“However, with my 54th birthday approaching, the time feels right to hand over to someone new. It is no secret that these are difficult times for the regional press and it needs someone with fresh ideas and energy to take the paper – and its rapidly-growing website – into a new era.”
According to ABC, print sales of the Echo declined by 6.8 per cent year on year to 26,846 in the second half of 2015 (well ahead of the industry average decline of more than 10 per cent). In the same period average daily browsers to its website grew 45.6 per cent to 63,936.
When Barron began as editor the title had an average daily sale of 66,032 according to ABC.