Atlanta’s Managing Editor Klibanoff To Depart

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By: Joe Strupp

Managing Editor Hank Klibanoff is leaving the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he told staffers Tuesday in a memo that stated
“it’s the right time — for me to do something else.”

In the memo, first posted on the Poynter.org Romenesko site, Klibanoff did not say what his next job will be, adding, “I cannot tell you right now what that next thing is because I don’t know. Over the past year, I have seen some possibilities, and received calls about others, that interested me, intrigued me, or fascinated me. Leaving allows me to look and listen openly and cleanly.”

After six years at the paper, which included co-authoring the book, “The Race Beat,” with Gene Roberts on civil rights reporting that won a Pulitzer Prize, Klibanoff said he had “fallen fully in love with this newsroom, this staff, this company. We’ve worked and played well together.”

Editor Julia Wallace, in her own memo, praised Klibanoff’s work: “We will miss Hank and all he has taught us. We wish him the absolute best in this next chapter of his life.”

She did not indicate when or if a replacement would be named. His last day is July 5.

Both memos are posted below:

****************************


To: The AJC staff
From: Hank
Date: June 24, 2008

I don’t have an anecdotal lede, a way to foreshadow a suspenseful ending, or some clever device to hook you. I have some news that is difficult to write and best served straight up: I am leaving the paper.

This is just about the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In an action-packed six years here, I have fallen fully in love with this newsroom, this staff, this company. We’ve worked and played well together.

Lucky me, I have been in one newsroom or another for 36 years; even luckier for me, my last six years were here with you. I want to thank Julia Wallace for bringing me down here and giving me this glorious opportunity, and James Mallory for accepting me as his managerial partner. I’m grateful to Roger Kintzel for his friendship and kindness and to John Mellott for his remarkable support for courageous journalism and untiring pursuit of freedom of information.

As Cynthia Tucker has heard me say because we’ve done several engagements together in the past year, there’s no one I admire as much as her, and no one I would rather have shared Pulitzer Day with than her. Shawn McIntosh, Mike Lupo, Robin Henry and Bert Roughton have worked smartly, assiduously and, most importantly, humanely during my time here to lift the quality of the newspaper; in the past 18 months, they have worked themselves to exhaustion to make the reorganization work. There are so many others to thank that a listing is impossible, but I am thinking especially of Angela Tuck and Myra Evans.

But I’m most grateful for the opportunity to work side-by-side with the reporters and photographers, editors, researchers, artists, designers, producers, managers and all the other staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ajc.com on some of the most important, engaging and high-impact stories an editor could ever hope to cross his desk. That, of course, is the hardest part about leaving — that and my realization that I will not get back to producing our annual Year in Review Revue! I leave knowing that Thomas Oliver, Charles Gay and Minla Shields have shown, day after day, the leadership qualities that made mine superfluous.

So it’s time — and it’s the right time — for me to do something else.

I feel I have another big chapter to write, and I don’t want to wait til it’s too late. I cannot tell you right now what that next thing is because I don’t know. Over the past year, I have seen some possibilities, and received calls about others, that interested me, intrigued me, or fascinated me. Leaving allows me to look and listen openly and cleanly.

Over the past few months, the feeling that I might want to do something else has grown even more intense. And I kept hearing, from deep in my childhood, words of the man best known for uttering the Golden Rule, Rabbi Hillel, some 2000 years ago. But the Hillel maxim that landed in my mind and would not leave was the third question in the challenging series of three queries Rabbi Hillel asked, questions that exist at the interplay between selfishness and selflessness: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

None of that makes this easier, now that the announcement is upon me. What seemed intellectually rational a few weeks ago now is filled with emotion for me. That’s a measure of my love for this newspaper and all of you.


***********************************
Memo from Julia Wallace

To all,

I am sorry to announce that Hank Klibanoff will be leaving us on July 5. In the past year or so, Hank has had a number of job feelers and entreaties about different opportunities. He has decided that now is a good time to pursue those.

Hank has played a critical role in the development of the newsroom in the six years he has been here. He has a unique blend of boundless curiosity, beautiful writing ability and a great eye for what’s right — and wrong — in a story. It is that combination that has made him such a strong editor.

Hank left Philadelphia and came here with a goal of helping make this a better newspaper. He worked hard every day — In very detailed ways — to make that happen. Our readers benefited from that; as did the news staff.

Hank has always enjoyed teaching and that was evident in how he approached his job — teaching all of us to think more deeply, ask more questions and push for excellence.

He also is a brilliant historian. While here, Hank finished his book “The Race Beat” (co-authored with Gene Roberts) on the media and the civil rights battles of the South. They won the Pulitzer Prize for this critical work.

We will miss Hank and all he has taught us. We wish him the absolute best in this next chapter of his life. We will gather at Manuel’s this Friday at 7 p.m. for an appropriate send-off. Below is his note to all of us.

Julia

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