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ABJ managing editor’s departure strikes a chord

The managing editor at the Akron Beacon Journal is leaving to be the editor at the Evasville Courier-Press.

Mizell Stewart was the top editor at the Beacon since last fall when they randomly announced the editor would be leaving. This after being sold by Knight-Ridder, then bought and then sold, all which were followed by a round of lay-offs that cut about a quarter of the newsroom.

Though I’ve never worked for the Beacon, I have had many friends who did, including several during or since that transition. And from my understanding the morale of the newsroom is pretty much non-existant these days; their belief in the future of journalism is in question. I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule, but from what I’ve been told, of late it became a depressing place to work.

So, when my editor pointed out this announcement on Friday night, it made me sad. The Beacon needs stability and strong leadership now more than ever. He didn’t understand why it would trouble me to hear of another shake-up. But I grew up reading the Beacon Journal. The ABJ is my hometown paper, and everybody has a soft spot for their hometown paper. I was extremely fortunate because my paper was so high quality. The journalism they produced mattered, and the stories they chased changed things. It’s the paper that made me believe in quality journalism and the nobility of pursuing this as a career. It’s still the place I go to find out news about the people and places I grew up with, but sadly, it’s not at all the same paper I grew up reading. So my sincere hope is this is the last change in editorial leadership for awhile, and the new editor, Bruce Winges, who is apparently a long-time newspaperman (much of it at the Beacon), can turn around not just the morale but the decline. And I hope he redesigns the Web site, too.

(Oh, I added that last comment and then read the whole story which says there’s an Ohio.com redesign in the works for July! Thank you journalism Gods.)

FYI: Evansville, according to the job posting for the editor position, has a circulation of about 67,000 daily and 89,000 Sunday. The Beacon Journal’s circulation is about 134,000 daily and 174,000 Sunday, according to the Beacon’s article.

(As an aside, I would like to see paper’s including their online viewership / unique visitors per day in these things. It’s interesting to me, just from what I’ve heard from other friends at different papers and comparatively here, how the online numbers can be really disproportionate to the print circulation. Some smaller papers have online viewerships on par or even higher than papers twice their size.)

More on the announcement:
The Beacon’s take and new editor announcement or The Courier-Press’s really long story about Stewart’s arrival.

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