By: M.L. Stein Pearl Stewart resigns as editor of the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, citing differences with parent firm's recently rehired editor in chief David Burgin sp.
OAKLAND (CALIF.) TRIBUNE editor Pearl Stewart, the first black wo-man to edit a major-market newspaper, has announced that she is quitting her job because she cannot work with David Burgin, who has been rehired as the editor in chief of the newspaper's parent company. "I had to make a decision about my future ? about whether I could work with him," Stewart said. "I really admire his abilities and knowledge as a journalist. He knows more about the news business than most people. But in terms of style and relating to people, whether staff or the community, I think we have significant differences." Burgin, who hired Stewart a year ago, said he was trying to persuade her to stay. He resigned in May as senior vice president and editor in chief of the Alameda Newspaper Group, saying he planned to develop a golf magazine. In returning to the same position, he said he was asked to come back by ANG president and publisher Peter Bernhard. The Tribune's reported circulation in the six-month period ending Sept. 30 was 75,408 daily and 73,543 Sunday, a drop of roughly 25,000 in both categories from the same period last year. At the time of his departure, the hard-charging, volatile Burgin was enmeshed in a squabble with the Oakland County Bar Association about a Tribune series that lambasted a judge for allegedly handing out lenient sentences to child molesters. The association, which came to the judge's defense, was enraged by a fiery, lawyer-bashing letter from Burgin to a lawyer who had objected to the Tribune series (E&P, June 5, p. 15). At the time, Burgin, 54, declared that he was not leaving ANG because of his differences with the law group. He hired Stewart, 44, when ANG, which is part of the Media News group chaired by W. Dean Singleton, bought the Tribune late last year. Stewart said they sometimes had stormy sessions when they first worked together. "It would be better for me to go," she said. "When two top editors are in conflict, there is considerable disruption in the newsroom." Stewart, a former staffer at the Tribune, San Francisco Examiner and United Press International, submitted her resignation one day after Burgin's reappointment was announced Nov. 29. Referring to Stewart, Burgin said, "I like and respect Pearl and she has every right to her opinion. But there are lots of ways to run a newspaper and I need Pearl and she needs me. I am trying to get her back. I think she can become a great editor." Stewart, who said she was considering offers from several other news organizations, said she agreed to Burgin's request to "think it over" during the weekend. She indicated, however, that there was virtually no chance that she would change her mind. Her resignation would become effective Dec. 14. Burgin, whose career has included editorships at the Washington Star, San Francisco Examiner, Orlando Sentinel and Houston Post, said, "Most people [on the Tribune] seem happy to have me back. That's what they said." A Tribune staff member, who requested anonymity, said there were "mixed feelings" in the newsroom about Burgin and Stewart. "Dave is a loose cannon, but there are people here who feel he is a very effective editor," the staffer said. Burgin conceded that his career has been marked by controversy but added that he did not understand what Stewart meant by her comment about relating to the community. "There was no problem with the community when I was there," he continued. "If there are problems with the community, they happened after I left." Currently, the Tribune and the Oakland City Council are in a legal battle about the council's endorsement of a labor union boycott of the newspaper. The Tribune has sued the city regarding what it terms its illegal interference in ANG's contract negotiations with the Newspaper Guild. "I have a long track record and I don't have to apologize for that," Burgin said. Referring to himself as a risk-taker, he observed, "I've been described as mercurial so many times in print that I began to think it was my first name." Burgin replaces Robert Cochnar as editor in chief. Cochnar will remain as editor of ANG with the additional duties of supervising research and development of new newspaper products. ? ("It would be better for me to go. When two top editors are in conflict, there is considerable disruption in the newsroom." ? Pearl Stewart, who resigned as editor of the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune) [Photo and Caption] ? ("I have a long track record and I don't have to apologize for that." ? David Burgin, who rejoined Alameda Newspaper Group, parent company of the Tribune, as senior vice president and editor in chief) [Photo and Caption]