By: Joe Strupp
Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski says her decision to leave the job she has had for seven years — and the paper where she has worked for 30 — “had been building” for at least several months.
She tolds E&P last night that the latest round of planned layoffs (expected to cut 80 newsroom positions) and a decision to reduce news pages did not directly trigger her decision announced Monday. “There is no one moment, no one day,” she said. “It has been a growing desire to do something different.”
Lipinski, 52, says she made the decision last Wednesday, then informing Tribune Publishing Executive Vice President Bob Gremillion that she would depart. Asked how much of her decision had been forced by Tribune officials, she declared: “zero pushing, quite the contrary. They had hoped this would turn out differently. I have never had anything but support and admiration and a desire for me to stay.”
Still, Lipinski, who has spent her entire career at the Tribune and serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board, said running the newspaper — or any newspaper — has changed significantly in recent years. “It is a complicated time for this company and this industry,” she added. “I think the pressures go well beyond those facing this paper and this company. It is a golden age of journalism in some ways.”
The married mother of a 14-year-old daughter adds that: “I do need some rest, I need to reintroduce myself to my family; I have a garden that is in desperate need of me. I really do need time with my family.”
Friends and colleagues who know Lipinski well said it is likely she left on her own, but perhaps after realizing how much the job had changed and the company would seek to continue downsizing. Several others also said it is obviously difficult for her to leave the Tribune having spent so much time there.
Lipinski agreed: “I grew up here, in the newsroom. It has been home in a lot of ways. I have such tremendous friendships here and memories here. It is hard to say goodbye to people. I go with tremendous pride in what we?ve accomplished and enormous respect for the professionalism and creativity in the room.”
Lipinski, whose last day is Thursday, said she chose to leave quickly so as not to complicate the pending staff and other changes. “There is a tremendous amount going on here, someone needs to carry out these layoffs and then needs to run the newsroom,” she explained. “For me to say I will stay around and make decisions and then hand off to someone, that is not something I would have wanted from my predecessor.
“My goal was to have enough days to have a lot of good conversations with people and that seemed like a good amount of time,” she added. “I did not want to stretch this out and become a distraction.”
Lipinski declined to comment on her replacement, Gerould Kern, adding that she was not offered any other Tribune position. “I made the decision to leave the best job I’ve ever had,” she said. “Having done it, it is hard to tell what else I would do here.”