Top Editor in Mankato, Minn., Quits Rather Than Cut Other Jobs

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(AP) The top editor of The Free Press announced she would resign rather than cut newsroom jobs to meet budget targets.

On Tuesday, The Free Press reported the decision by editor Deb Flemming to leave the company on April 9 as part of a broader cost-cutting plan. She informed her staff on Monday.

“Clearly, my leaving kept additional folks in the newsroom,” she said. “You need people to do the job. Without people, it will impact the quality of the product you give readers.”

Flemming, 50, said she wouldn’t be looking for another newspaper job, at least right away. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’m really looking forward to a change.”

The daily newspaper is owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. of Alabama, which publishes daily, weekly, and semiweekly newspapers in more than 200 communities in the United States.

Publisher Ken Lingren said the financial pinch was due to “getting our budget in line with industry standards” rather than unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls.”

Flemming said she came to her decision while working on a plan to bring newsroom full-time staffing to an industry standard that calls for about one newsroom employee for each 1,000 in circulation. The Free Press has a daily circulation of 22,500.

With 30 staff members, the paper was considered overstaffed, Flemming said.

“The unfortunate part of that standard is that it doesn’t take into account the unique factors of each market,” she said.

For example, The Free Press covers three colleges and news in eight to nine counties, she said.

Even with the resignation, Lingen said, two reporting jobs opening later this month won’t be immediately filled. The newspaper plans to add part-time correspondents, he said.

City editor Joe Spear will lead the newsroom after Flemming’s departure, carrying the title managing editor, a new position for the Free Press. The “editor” title will disappear from the paper’s newsroom hierarchy after Flemming’s departure.

Flemming got her start in journalism in the late 1970s as a reporter for her hometown newspaper, the now-defunct Waseca Daily Journal.

She became editor of the Owatonna People’s Press in 1985. In 1992, she became managing editor of the Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle in 1992. She returned to The Free Press as editor in 1995.

“It’s been a great career,” she said.

“Deb did excellent work at The Free Press and we’re going to miss her,” Lingen said.

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