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Pedestrians walk past a Ottawa Citizen newspaper box in downtown Ottawa, Ont., in this file photo.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Ottawa Citizen's editor-in-chief is leaving the paper.

Andrew Potter will depart after more than two years at the helm, having taken over as the paper's top editor in December of 2013, to start a new role as director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. He will stay at the Citizen until the end of February, but the search for his replacement is on.

In an internal note to staff, Gerry Nott, a senior vice-president at the paper's parent company, Postmedia Network Inc., said he had hired Mr. Potter to the Citizen as managing editor in 2011 to help rebuild its status in coverage of federal politics. "To say he overdelivered diminishes his effort," Mr. Nott wrote. "Under his guidance and with a strong team of writers, the paper won a National Newspaper Award and a Michener for reporting in that field."

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In 2014, Mr. Potter also led the Citizen through a major redesign of its print and digital products, which Mr. Nott called "a very complicated and challenging period." But last fall the chain shuttered its ambitious evening tablet editions, which were costly to produce, choosing to redirect its focus to simpler tablet and smartphone apps, which were received more enthusiastically by readers.

Mr. Potter's new job marks a return to academic roots. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto, did postdoctoral work at Université de Montréal, and taught at Trent University earlier in his career. He has also worked as features editor at Canadian Business magazine and wrote a public affairs column for Maclean's magazine from 2005 to 2011.

In a statement, McGill's interim dean of Arts, Hudson Meadwell, said Mr. Potter's "reputation as a public intellectual in Canada and his experience as an editor at a major metropolitan newspaper will be great assets" to the university.

"I'm really, really sad to be leaving the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia. I love journalism and the people here so much. It's been a tremendous privilege and I owe debts of gratitude to so many people in this business," Mr. Potter said in an e-mail. "At the same time, I'm thrilled to be returning to McGill, where I did my undergraduate degree."

But the Citizen has lost multiple senior editors in the last year, including its editorial pages editor, Kate Heartfield, last November. The paper's only other editorial writer, James Gordon, announced he was leaving the same day, a month after Postmedia papers faced criticism for running editorials supporting the Conservative Party that were centrally directed by Postmedia's leadership.

The departures come in addition to deep cuts across the Postmedia chain in recent years as the company struggles to turn around declining revenue while servicing some $670-million in debt.

"I consider Andrew a good friend and colleague who has left a very strong legacy at the Citizen," Mr. Nott said.

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