Foster S. Davis announced his resignation as managing editor March 7 in an electronic message to the staff. His successor was announced that same day: Richard K. Weil Jr., who had risen through the ranks to assistant managing editor since joining the paper in 1973 as a reporter. The resignation and the new appointment were effective immediately.
Woo remains in charge of the newsroom for now, but will be replaced by the top newsroom executive, according to publisher Nicholas G. Penniman IV. The final title and exact job description of Woo's successor are up in the air but Penniman suggested "editor in chief" as a working title.
Woo's future responsibilities with the company are unclear. In fact, even the timeline is vague.
"I think Michael's attitude is it's better to do it right than to do it fast," Penniman said, adding that the final choice would be made by Pulitzer Publishing chairman Michael Pulitzer with input from others in the company ? but not necessarily from within the newsroom.
Strong emphasis is being placed on bringing in someone from outside, but insiders will be considered, as well. An executive search firm may be hired.
The Post-Dispatch recently added another senior executive much more quietly. Terrance C.Z. Egger, formerly vice president of advertising at Tucson Newspapers Inc., is the paper's first general manager since Tom Tallarico jumped ship for the now-defunct St. Louis Sun. He reports directly to Penniman and will be the business side's equivalent of the new editor in chief.
The newsroom shake-up began with remarks by Penniman during a series of staff meetings in late February to discuss the results of an employee survey by Synectics, a Cambridge, Mass., consulting firm retained to help develop a long-term strategy for Pulitzer Publishing. The survey results showed a deep-seated belief that innovation and creativity are not valued by management, a lack of confidence in senior management and conveyed the sense that serious changes would have to be made to move forward.
Woo was in Europe on vacation, but Davis was in the room when Penniman answered a staff question about the future with the response that the paper's top management would be replaced. Davis did not respond publicly; Woo was firm upon his return about his intentions to remain in place until his successor is chosen. In fact, Woo left for vacation even though he had been warned before leaving that a search for his successor would soon be underway.
Woo told editors at a news meeting that he deeply regrets the way the information about the change in management was delivered and, according to notes distributed after the meeting, said that he was disturbed by the "disrespect it showed to the editor and managing editor and for all the journalists of this paper."
Weil was Woo's choice to succeed Davis. The job is not temporary, but Weil could be replaced when the new editor comes in.
"That's entirely up to whoever the new editor in chief is," Penniman explained, adding that the appointment of Weil has his complete backing.
"He [Weil] has a deep understanding of the traditions of this newspaper, and a strong commitment to excellence," Woo told the Post-Dispatch reporter writing about the changes. Unlike Davis, Weil has strong roots in St. Louis. A family investment company managed by his brother, John Weil, holds a sizable amount of Pulitzer stock, but the class of stock does not include any say in running the company.
Newsroom rumors had Davis on his way out even before Penniman's remarks. He has been commuting between St. Louis and Charlotte, where he was recently married to an editor at the Charlotte Observer, and was known to be frustrated by differences between himself and Woo.
Davis told the Post-Dispatch: "When things settle down, looking back, I'll be seen as a transitional figure between the old Post-Dispatch and the new Post-Dispatch.
?(St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor William Woo told editors at a news meeting that he deeply regrets the way the information about the change in management was delivered and...said that he was disturbed by the "disrespect it showed to the editor and managing editor and for all the journalists of this paper.") [Photo & Caption]
?(Kramer is a freelance writer based in St. Louis) [Caption]
By: STACI D. KRAMER LESS THAN FOUR years after a well-publicized search for a new managing editor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has changed managing editors again and is setting the stage for an even more significant change ? the replacement of editor William F. Woo.