Editors Suggest Some Colleagues Really Want to Quit Biz

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By: Joe Strupp

Among the gossip and trends swirling at the Capital Conference/combined media convention here is the reality that more and more editors are wishing they could get out of the newsroom earlier in their careers.

During hallway chats and bar stool gatherings, in between the sessions at the Washington Convention Center, several editors said the state of the industry ? with more cuts, more responsibility for Web, and an unknown future — has more of their colleagues talking about wanting to hang it up well before retirement age.

?That discussion is going on among a lot of people,? said Chris Peck, editor of the Commercial-Appeal in Memphis, Tenn. ?Do I want to do this anymore? Do I want to be part of the group changing the business model? What is happening is that the job of an editor has changed. You have to be in the frame of mind to help that business model.?

Peck added that ?For some editors, they just don?t want to do it. For ethical reasons, or they don?t have the skill sets. That is happening.?

Others around the joint ASNE/NAA/NEXPO confab admitted that there is a trend of some editors wanting to get out of the newsroom and pursue other career outlets, such as teaching.

Martin Kaiser, editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 11 years, said some of the trend is based on editors being unwilling to get involved in the current changing approach of newspapers. ?That doesn?t surprise me, it is hard. Change isn?t easy,? he said. ?You want to be able to leave a place better than you found it, that is harder, especially if you have fewer people.?

Ron Royhab, top editor of The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, for the past 16 years, said he is not seeking an out, despite being 65. But he agreed that the editor?s post had greater challenges and likely sparked more people wanting to leave. ?It is a tougher job than in the past,? he said. ?The economy, the difficulties the newspaper industry is having. I have heard a lot of people say, ?the good old days?.?

Susan Goldberg, who had been editor of the San Jose Mercury News until last year when she left for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, admitted ?the job is very, very difficult. For some people, it is time to try something else.? Noting she is in no hurry to leave, she added, ?it is harder than it ever has been in my memory and a lot of people feel that way about it.?

Bob McCartney, assistant managing editor/metro at The Washington Post, said he feels lucky to be at such a great paper when so many other newsrooms are in depressing times. ?It is harder than it once was,? he said about newsroom leadership in general. ?Clearly, the pressure — you?ve got to do everything you once did before, and with the Web and fewer resources.?

One longtime editor who left the newsroom for teaching last year is Rick Rodriguez, former editor of The Sacramento Bee and soon-to-be instructor at Arizona State University. ?Right now, editors are under more pressure than at any time in recent memory,? he stated. ?You can hear it in the concerns of my colleagues, you can see it in their faces.?

Pam Fine, a longtime managing editor, most recently at The Indianapolis Star, plans to leave later this year for a teaching post at the University of Kansas. But she says she is not leaving out of any desire to depart the newsroom, saying ?it is a natural extension of the newsroom to work with young people and share what we know and create good journalists.?

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