Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bud Appleby Unimpressed With Newsroom Move -- Says, 'The Register Has a History Of Putting Unqualified People In the Managing Editor's Chair'

A headline in today's local paper said:

Register taps
for managing
editor post

This was the story under the headline:

"The Des Moines Register has hired one of its own as managing editor, in charge of daily news operations.

"Register Editor Carolyn Washburn late Wednesday afternoon announced she had hired one of her assistants, longtime Iowa journalist Randy Brubaker, as managing editor. Brubaker replaced Rick Tapscott, who left to take a job in Delaware.

"Brubaker, 47, was born in Des Moines. He is a graduate of Wartburg College in Waverly.

"Brubaker has held a series of positions at the Register, including sports editor, news editor and, recently, assistant managing editor leading the paper's offerings at He joined the Register staff in 1988.

"Washburn, who considered six finalists from across the country, said Brubaker's strengths include creativity, supporting both public-affairs and community-based reporting, online experience, the respect of his Register peers and his ability to coach the staff.

"Register Publisher Mary Stier said she was thrilled that the position went to one of the Register's own. 'He has the respect and trust of the newsroom staff,' Stier said of Brubaker's standing at the Register, the state's largest newspaper."

* * *

Early reaction to the naming of Brubaker has been less-than-upbeat.

Bud Appleby, a retired writer and editor at the Register, is certainly unimpressed.

He said in an e-mail to me:

"I guess Brubaker getting the managing editor's job isn't much of a surprise when you consider that people are not hired for that post on their journalistic skills but on their perceived ability to hold down the cost of gathering and reporting the news.

"Besides, the Register has a history of putting unqualified people in the managing editor's chair. Ed Hines, Arnie Garson and Diane Graham come to mind. I'm sure there are others."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Another ex-Register managing editor who was strongly-deserving of being on that list was Mike Townsend].

"Garson, of course, was in a class by himself," Appleby continued. "During his reign of terror there, someone cleverly altered the dictionary at the copy desk so that if you looked up the word 'asshole' you found Arnie's picture.

"On the day Garson announced his resignation, there were at least three parties at the homes of newsroom staffers that night to celebrate the occasion. At the party I attended, there was a dart board on a closet door that had a picture of Arnie instead of a bull's-eye. And that wasn't done to mark his leaving; it had been that way for months.

"Another joke about Brubaker getting the job was the Register story that quoted the publisher, Mary Stier, as saying: 'He has the respect and trust of the newsroom staff.'

"That may be true, but even if it is, she doesn't know it. She probably had to ask someone who he is.

"You can use my name [in your column] and you can add that Garson's biggest accomplishment as managing editor was unifying the newsroom -- everybody hated him."

* * *

[Brubaker is pictured on the upper right, Stier on the upper left. Photos of the other Register managing editors mentioned in this column -- as well as Brubaker, Stier, Washburn and even Mike Gartner and Dennis Ryerson -- are being used as bull's-eyes in the men's and women's restrooms at 715 Locust. There's a crowd in both places, so you'll have to take a number to get your turn.]