By: Joe Strupp
Orlando Sentinel Managing Editor Elaine Kramer has decided to leave the paper after three years, according to staffers who received a memo announcing the decision this morning.
The timing of Kramer’s departure, coming less than two months after the appointment of new editor Charlotte Hall and only three months after the paper received criticism for a major series on OxyContin that omitted certain background facts, raised speculation about the reasons for her decision.
Kramer, 47, told E&P that she chose to leave to spend more time with her family and plans to move with her husband and two children to Pennsylvania. “I periodically reassess my life and the timing is centered around my daughter entering high school,” she said. “This is something I’ve done before in my career.”
A copy of the memo from Hall, which was posted on Poynter.org, indicated Kramer left of her own choosing.
“Elaine has told me that she has taken this opportunity of transition at the Sentinel to reassess personal priorities and has decided to leave the paper,” Hall’s memo said. “While I respect her decision, her departure will leave a large gap in our newsroom.”
Kramer joined the Sentinel in 2001 after serving as editor at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., another Tribune Co. paper.
When former Sentinel editor Tim Franklin left the newsroom to become editor of Tribune’s The Sun in Baltimore, replacing fired editor William Marimow, speculation immediately centered on Kramer as a replacement.
But, she took herself out of the running about a month before the search process ended, according to staffers. Publisher Kathleen Waltz ended up choosing Charlotte Hall, a veteran newsroom leader from Tribune’s Newsday in Melville, N.Y.
“I realized I didn’t want that job,” Kramer said. “That set me on this other course of decision making.”
When asked if she would have named Kramer editor had she not withdrawn her name, Waltz said “I don’t know about that. I really can’t say.” But the publisher stressed that Kramer left the paper on her own. “She said she wanted to go.”
Some speculated that Kramer did not want the long hours and pressures of the top editor post, while a few contend she might have been pushed out of the running because of fallout from the paper’s OxyContin series last year.
The Sentinel took heat in February when it published a lengthy front-page explanation of how reporters had mistakenly omitted certain facts about two people who were depicted in the series on the dangers of the prescription drug. The fallout included the resignation of one of the reporters who worked on the series.
“I always had the feeling she wasn’t going to last after what happened with the OxyContin articles,” said one staffer who requested anonymity. “My knee-jerk reaction (to her resignation) was, ‘Oh, OxyContin.'”
Others speculated that Hall, who could not be reached for comment, may want to choose her own managing editor, a common move with new editors.
But several Sentinel employees said Kramer likely just wanted to leave and spend time with her family, noting that she spoke about returning to Pennsylvania and was the kind of person to tell staffers the truth. “I take her at face value,” said an editor who did not want to be named. “I think it’s all on the up and up.”