By: Steve Friess
Updated at 3:10 p.m. EST
When Randy Lovely takes over as managing editor of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix on April 8, he will become what many call the highest-ranking openly gay leader at a major metropolitan newspaper. In his view, this is a sign of progressive times.
Lovely, previously executive editor of The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif., will oversee the newsroom of 400 journalists daily under Tom Callinan, the Republic‘s executive editor. Callinan also hired Lovely in 1992, as assistant managing editor at The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., the first in a string of four Gannett Co. Inc. papers for Lovely leading him to Phoenix.
A Feb. 14 story in the Republic on Lovely’s appointment did not overtly discuss the 38-year-old’s sexual orientation, but did include a matter-of-fact note that he would be moving to Phoenix with his partner. The paper is providing that partner, John Sallot, head-hunting help to find a new job, a perk typically associated with executives who move with married spouses.
“Gannett has been very gracious,” Lovely said. “The company as a whole and the people at The Arizona Republic are very understanding.”
Robert Dodge, president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA), cheered the appointment. “You can find plenty of gay people in the upper echelons of the news business, but it is less common to find those that are totally out,” said Dodge, a national economics correspondent in the Washington bureau of The Dallas Morning News. “This is true in both print and broadcast. … It says good things about Gannett in advancing the career of a news professional who has the courage and confidence to be fully out in the newsroom.”
As recently as last year, Gannett was on NLGJA’s hit list for failing to offer benefits to the domestic partners of its employees. Lovely, who has been out of the closet in his newsrooms since age 26, said he voiced his distaste for Gannett’s benefits policy at many high-ranking meetings over the years. The company began offering domestic-partner benefits this year.
Lovely pointed to the fact that he’s continued his fast rise despite being gay, and vocal, as proof that the industry is changing. He said he’ll focus as managing editor on finding ways to provide relevant community news to Phoenix’s ever-sprawling population. The gay issue won’t be a priority, he insisted.
“All I have to be is true to myself and true to the responsibilities I’ve been given,” he said. “I’m not going to deny coverage to the gay and lesbian community to prove something to the rest of the readership, but I’m also not going to turn The Arizona Republic into the community’s gay-and-lesbian newspaper. You can’t get caught up in that or you start to second-guess yourself too much.”
While Lovely is the highest-ranking out editor at a large metro daily today, other openly gay editors at smaller papers have previously held higher titles. Leroy Aarons, founder of NLGJA, came out publicly in 1990 when he was executive editor of The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune.