Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Editor Means the Local Paper Has Women in 3 Key News Jobs

I’ve been on the verge of being absolutely overcome with happiness ever since Bud Appleby e-mailed me with the news.

I had just come home late this morning after spending a couple of hours at what was supposed to be a 15-minute appointment with one of my orthopedic doctors.

Not that anything the doctor told me about my sore left foot was complicated. It’s just that the waiting room was full of people, and I think he was the only M.D. on duty. And, yes, we did spend a lot of time talking about tomorrow night’s Drake-Northern Iowa football extravaganza, too.

I sat down at the computer to check my e-mail before heading to my normal Wednesday lunch at the Oriental place with Raff, Buck and the other other guys.

The e-mail from Appleby, a former editor and reporter at the local paper, immediately got my attention.

It concerned a story that was on the Idaho Statesman website.

Oh-oh, I thought. This has got to have something to do with the editor’s job at the local paper.

After all, local paper humor columnist Ken Fuson had prepared local paper retirees for this one a while back.

“I’ve heard this from nobody, but why has that ever stopped me?” Fuson said at the retirees’ lunch. “The word is that [the Gannett Co.] is very high on the editor at Boise. So there is some speculation that a woman in Boise might be considered here.”

I used that information in an earlier column.

The local paper has been looking for an editor ever since Paul Anger left after three years to take a job at the Detroit Free Press. A couple of people—probably Anger and one of his kids—considered that a job upgrade.

It turns out that Fuson knew what he was talking about.

The Idaho Statesman reported that executive editor Carolyn Washburn will become the new vice-president and editor of the local paper.

That, folks, is the best news I’ve heard since Dennis Ryerson, a former editor, was sent packing, and Randy Brubaker was dumped as the local paper’s sports editor.

So why, you ask, is it good news that an executive editor from Idaho is moving her act to Des Moines?

Because that now means the local paper will have women in three key news jobs, and one of them isn't Diane Graham.

My good friend Mary P. Stier is the president and publisher, Washburn is the vice-president and editor, and Carol Hunter is the editorial page editor.

It’s about time something like that happened.

With these highly-intelligent women in place, I fully expect the local paper to finally regain the prestige it lost when guys with beer guts and stupid clip-on suspenders and bow ties ran the place.

I mean, how ridiculous was it that an empty cab pulled up at 8th and Locust a few years ago, and Mike Townsend got out?

With women in charge, I predict that the local paper’s circulation will immediately increase. People in Manning won’t be going to the coffee shop and saying, “What’s new in the World-Herald?” And I expect the major league baseball results to be in the local paper’s sports section the next morning--when both copies are in the vending machine in Iowa City.

And maybe—just maybe—all of the Valley and Roosevelt football results will be in the local paper’s city edition.

Come to think of it, that may be asking too much. After all, there’s still not a woman running the sports department.

A little more about Washburn from the Statesman website…..

She’s 42 years of age, or close to it.

She’s married and has three children. [Well, there’s the answer to that question].

She’ll start running the newsroom at the local paper next week.

She’s been executive editor of the Idaho Statesman since 1999.

She was managing editor of the Statesman from 1993-1995.

She is immediate past-president of the City Club of Boise. [That’s something I really wanted to know].

Washburn “will miss Idaho, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grow professionally.” [In other words, move up the Gannett chain. Who knows, maybe her next stop in the rent-an-editor game at Gannett will be Indianapolis].

“Idaho is in my soul—but that’s not saying anything that Idahoans don’t know. It is a special place on the earth and it will be with me forever,” Washburn said. “The newspaper is a special place that cares so much about the community, and it took something big to draw me away.

This is big for me professionally. It’s a great new responsibility. It gets my kids and my family closer to their grandparents, and that ended up being a pretty strong combination.” [Washburn is an Indiana University graduate].

Washburn told staffers at the local paper at a meeting today that Iowa readers “are very lucky that they have a newspaper that delivers on their high expectations like this one does.”

She emphasized story-telling and watchdog journalism. [Every good editor emphasizes watchdog journalism].

“I want to break news,” she said. “My favorite kind of breaking news is the kind that readers wouldn’t know if they didn’t learn it from us.”

Something I can’t figure out, though, is why the news of Washburn’s appointment wasn’t in this morning’s local paper. Instead, my web page and the local TV stations were able to have the news before it could be in tomorrow’s local paper. Talk about getting scooped!

Oh, well.

I guess miracles don’t happen overnight.

Good luck, Carolyn.

As they say in the sports business and the Gannett offices, you’ll need it.

Vol. 4, No. 368
Aug. 31, 2005