Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Diane Graham Out--Was It Her Idea or Theirs?

Diane Graham will soon be history at the local paper.

Graham, who is called “managing editor/staff development,” is leaving the paper April 7.

However, in a memo to people in the newsroom today, Graham said she may re-enter the journalism field after “an extended hiatus.”

“It seems ludicrous to talk about retirement just yet,” Graham said. “But after 30 years with the Register, I’ve decided I need to step away from work for a time.”

Sources weren't certain if Graham's decision to depart the newsroom job was hers or someone else's.

A former editor and reporter at the local paper who has followed Graham’s career said, “I bet they don’t replace her.”

Graham has often been a target of people both inside and outside the newsroom. They haven't understood her job responsibilities, and have wondered if she did, either.

In another development at the local paper, something happened that a close-watcher of the often-strange news operation can't figure out.

He was talking about the appointment of Suzanne Behnke as deputy news editor.

"They still don't have a news editor, but they have made somebody deputy news editor," my source points out.

"I don't know what this means for Kurt Helland, who had been doing this job since the last news editor quit."


Graham’s memo to the staff:

From: Graham, Diane
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 12:22 PM
Subject: Thanks


As you already know from Rick and Paul, I will be leaving the Register this spring. I 'm not going to use the "R" word. It seems ludicrous to talk about retirement just yet. But after 30 years with the Register, I've decided I need to step away from work for a time.

It's been a particularly challenging year for me personally, and I'm grateful for how accommodating folks here have been. Still, after some serious deliberations and no small amount of agonizing, I've decided to take an extended hiatus from a regularly scheduled job. With the exception of when Dan and I traveled to China to adopt Maya, this marks my first significant break from full-time work since college.

People have asked what my plans are. The honest truth is I don't have many. I'll enjoy the summer with Maya before she goes to kindergarten. I'll take some time just for me and for my family. And after that, I'm open to anything. Right now, I can't imagine it not having to do with journalism.

When I first walked through the doors, I was a 19-year-old intern who thought I'd be gone the next summer after picking up a journalism degree from Drake. I had no ties to Iowa. I wasn't fortunate enough to grow up reading the Register. I knew it was a respected newspaper. Yet even when I accepted a full-time job, I thought I'd stay one more year.

Blame bad math skills, if you'd like. But the truthful answer is I discovered I had landed in a magical place for doing journalism. It was a newspaper that cared deeply about its mission, that day-in and day-out did it exceedingly well, and was able to do it because we have a room full of wonderful, passionate, caring people.

That is what I will miss most. The people. I've always told other journalists -- and just about every person I've ever recruited -- that the thing that makes the Register special is its people and the way we all care about great journalism. But that also comforts me. I know all that talent will be delivering a must-read newspaper to my doorstep every day. That will help ease my withdrawal pains!

My last day will be April 7. I had hoped to wrap up some projects before exiting, but our business doesn't seem to have tidy endings. That has made my decision especially difficult. There are some exciting and cool things unfolding right now.

There's time to chat before I leave, but let me end by saying that I hope that what lies ahead is half as rewarding as my time with the Register has been. Thanks to everyone. You are all special people.


Here's the announcement on Behnke's appointment as deputy news editor:

From: Church, Gage
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005, 2:30 p.m.
Subject: Staffing announcement

I'm pleased to announce that Suzanne Behnke will be stepping into the new role of Deputy News Editor.

Suzanne began at The Register in 2000 on the night copy desk. Since then, she's served as State Editor of the Metro & Iowa desk and as day news editor, overseeing the features copy editing and design operation.

In her new role, Suzanne will be "second in command" of the entire copy desk operation. She'll fill the nightly news editor's seat two or three times a week and continue to work with the day desk once a week.

Please join me in congratulating Suzanne.

Vol. 4, No. 323
March 16, 2005