December 7th, 2009 | by HANK STERN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Sandy Rowe Retiring As Oregonian Editor (UPDATED with Rowe email to staff)

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Oregonian Editor Sandy Rowe just told staff at the paper in an afternoon meeting that she is retiring.

A staffer who attended the meeting says Executive Editor Peter Bhatia will become the paper's editor and that Rowe characterized her move as one that would save money for the daily.

"She looked at the numbers and said that cutting her position would make a big difference," said the staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "She said goodbye basically."

It's unclear when her retirement will take effect.

Here's an email sent by new Oregonian publisher N. Christian Anderson to staff with more details
Dear colleagues,

Today we are making a very important announcement about the transition of leadership in our newsroom. Sandy Rowe is retiring effective December 31. Peter Bhatia, our executive editor, will become editor of The Oregonian on January 1.

Attached is a news release that will be posted on oregonlive.com this afternoon.

This was a difficult decision for Sandy, but it is one she felt good about making -- and which she made in the best interests of our company. I support Sandy's decision. I know you will join me in recognizing her enormous contributions to the company and to our community. Thankfully, she will continue to contribute to Portland, to Oregon and to the national and international journalism community.

I'm also pleased to announce Peter's promotion. This is the best of both worlds -- continuity in the newsroom while bringing the inevitable different perspective that comes with a change in leadership. Please join me in congratulating Peter as well.

Regards,
Chris

And here's The O's announcement with more details about Rowe's tenure at the paper beginning in 1993 and including the five Pulitzers won by The O during Rowe's 16-year stint. She says she and her husband, Gerard, will remain in Portland.

"I am retiring as a newspaper editor, but not from involvement in leadership in other capacities that could contribute to the economic and educational vibrancy of this great state," Rowe says in The Oregonian piece. "First, though, I look forward to taking most of 2010 off to enjoy more time with my daughters and year-old granddaughter."

UPDATED: And here's the email Rowe sent to staff
Colleagues:

I today announced I am retiring as editor of The Oregonian. This was a tremendously difficult decision but I am confident it is sound. You deserve to know why.

When we first announced the buyout and possibility of subsequent layoffs, many of you wanted to know staffing targets, how and when we would decide about layoffs and what departments would be most affected. Reasonable questions, all. I responded we would not know the staffing target until we had a new publisher and a final budget and we wouldn't start planning layoffs until the buyout was completely closed. I also said we would protect more content-producing jobs by reducing the number of editors. I did not realize at the time that statement would drive my own decision.

Led by Chris, in early November we went back into the budgets, determined to ensure the company's profitability in 2010, the essential ingredient to retain jobs and turn our focus from cutting to building. At that point it became clear we would have to shed about 70 jobs total from the newsroom staff. As we have gotten much smaller as a newsroom, it is also clear we have too many editing positions concentrated at the top of the organization.

Over Thanksgiving I wrestled with the number of layoffs we would need and determined it was best to start by removing my own salary from the budget. I informed Chris of my decision last week. Doing this preserves other jobs.

The biggest single timing consideration for me is my conviction that we are indeed right on the brink of having both financial soundness and great opportunity for the future. That is the good news. The economy is starting to turn and Chris and his leadership team are putting all the pieces in place to take full advantage of our strong market position and growing online opportunity. It won't be easy, but by this time next year, I predict this company will be in a modest growth position.

In News, I have no doubt you have the leadership within yourselves and in this room to meet the future with vigor and commitment. I am very proud of that. The superb work you have done and the public service we provide through our journalism has never been attributable to the editor or a small handful of people. It is from all of you. Yes, we are smaller than we have been and many talented colleagues have left, but look around you at the talent still here, ranging from veteran Pulitzer Prize winners to young super-talented digitally savvy journalists.

You will not lose the passion that drives you and in that, too, I take great pride. What you do is worthy, often inspired, and has never been more needed than it is today. Amid the noise of the media marketplace, more than ever the fight is to be the trusted source of local news and information. That is what you do so well, and you will win that fight -- on any platform the market chooses.

I will miss you a great deal, but that is overshadowed by the gratitude I feel for the good fortune of having worked with you and every day having fun, laughing, struggling and, ultimately achieving tremendous things together.

I cheer you and wish you Godspeed on these important next steps in the journey.

Sandy
 
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