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The Toronto Star newsroom slowly gets rolling into the news day from its home at one Yonge Street, Nov. 28, 2016Glenn Lowso

Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke is stepping down.

Mr. Cooke will stay on with the company until June 1, Torstar Corp. announced on Friday. He was appointed editor in March of 2009.

After leaving the Star, Mr. Cooke will expand his work with the non-governmental organization Journalists for Human Rights, of which he is already board chair, and plans to train journalists on human-rights reporting internationally, according to a statement from Torstar.

Mr. Cooke's career in journalism has spanned nearly five decades, starting with his first job at age 17 as an apprentice reporter at The Visitor, a weekly newspaper in Morecambe, England. Over the course of his career, he also worked for the Montreal Gazette, The Edmonton Journal, The Vancouver Province, the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Daily News.

The newsroom Mr. Cooke has overseen at the Toronto Star has been subject to significant cost-cutting, as its parent company undergoes a multiyear transformation plan. Last year, Torstar shed approximately 250 jobs across the company, including digital positions related to the now-defunct Star Touch tablet edition of its flagship newspaper.

Torstar Corp. CEO John Boynton, who was appointed to the role one year ago, has said that "everything is on the table" in the transformation of the newspaper and digital-media company.

"For you in this newsroom, the next two years are going to be challenging," Mr. Cooke said in a farewell note sent to the Star newsroom, "big changes coming … all good and all necessary … and exciting … and fabulous … and if you stick to our long-held values, the values that got the paper another Hillman prize, that got the paper all those [National Newspaper Award] nominations in areas we have always cared about … if you stick to our long-held values and embrace the new, you have a real shot at transforming the Star to a further brilliant and lasting success." (Ellipses his.)

The Star announced it has hired executive recruiting firm SpencerStuart to assist in filling the editor position.

During his time at the Star, Mr. Cooke oversaw a shift in the newsroom's priorities, significantly expanding its team dedicated to investigative reporting. The paper has become known for stories that raised questions about oversight of the use of deadly force by Toronto police, for example, or demonstrated the impact of mercury contamination in the Indigenous community of Grassy Narrows. In 2014, the Star won the prestigious Michener Award for its coverage of mayor Rob Ford.

Torstar declined interview requests with Mr. Cooke and other executives.

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