A Lot of Turnover in Journalism’s Top Jobs

From a post on cjr.org by Jon Allsop headlined “A season of turnover”:

ON WEDNESDAY, KIM GODWIN, an executive at CBS News, was named as the next president of ABC News, a rival network. She will replace James Goldston, and be the first Black woman to run a broadcast TV news division. As word of Godwin’s move went around, we also learned that Susan Zirinsky, her boss at CBS, would be stepping down. Zirinsky plans to stay at CBS in a production role, but she will be replaced atop the news division by two new hires—Neeraj Khemlani, currently an executive at Hearst Newspapers, and Wendy McMahon, of ABC News….

The carousel may have spun especially fast at CBS and ABC this week, but they weren’t outliers in the world of media. In recent months, there has been lots of turnover in journalism’s top jobs. It started in earnest late last year: in December, Norm Pearlstine stepped back as executive editor of the LA Times and into an advisory role, and MSNBC named Rashida Jones as its new president, making her the first Black woman to lead a cable-news network. The same month, Nicholas Thompson left Wired, where he was editor in chief, to become CEO of The Atlantic; he has since been succeeded at Wired by Gideon Lichfield, the former top editor at MIT Technology Review.

Then, early this year, Vox named Swati Sharma, managing editor at The Atlantic, as its next editor in chief, replacing Lauren Williams, who left to launch Capital B, a nonprofit outlet aimed at Black audiences. After more than a year without an editor in chief, and following its turbulent takeover by BuzzFeed, HuffPost appointed Danielle Belton, the top editor at The Root, to the position; on Wednesday, The Root replaced Belton with Vanessa De Luca, the former editor in chief of ZORA, a Medium publication that offered all of its editorial staffers a buyout last month.

John Simons, a health and science editor at the Wall Street Journal, joined Time as executive editor; David Cho, business editor at the Washington Post, will become editor in chief of Barron’s. The Paris Review named Emily Stokes, formerly of The New Yorker, as its editor; The New Republic appointed Michael Tomasky, of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, atop its masthead. After Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the editor in chief of Teen Vogue, left for New York’s The Cut, Condé Nast planned to replace her with Alexi McCammond, a politics reporter at Axios—but the hire was swiftly reversed amid concerns over her offensive past tweets and general suitability for the job; last week, Teen Vogue promoted Danielle Kwarteng, its entertainment and culture director, to executive editor. This week, Reuters promoted Alessandra Galloni, a global managing editor, to editor in chief, replacing Stephen J. Adler, who is retiring.

Several major outlets still have leadership vacancies. Rolling Stone has yet to name a permanent replacement for Jason Fine, who stepped down as editor and took a new role at the company in February. The LA Times is still without an executive editor; Patrick Soon-Shiong, the paper’s owner, said recently that the interview process is at an “advanced” stage, and that he has met with most of the candidates. Marty Baron, the editor of the Washington Post, retired at the end of February; it’s unclear exactly how close the paper is to naming a permanent successor, though the names in the frame are said to include a pair of senior editors at the New York Times, Carolyn Ryan and Marc Lacey.

The Chicago Sun-Times has been without an executive editor since Chris Fusco left last year. Per Poynter, three outlets in Texas are also on the lookout: the Houston Chronicle, where Steve Riley is retiring as executive editor; the Dallas Morning News, whose executive editor, Mike Wilson, left and became a sports editor at the New York Times; and the Texas Tribune, where Stacy-Marie Ishmael, the editorial director, and Millie Tran, the chief product officer, are stepping down after little more than a year in their posts.

Both Ishmael and Tran cited burnout for their decisions; Baron and Wilson also said that their jobs had left them exhausted. “Running a newspaper today is like swimming across a hot fudge river: You gorge yourself on the decadent pleasure of it, but you have to kick like hell to get to the other side,” Wilson wrote, announcing his exit from the Morning News….Yesterday, Megan Greenwell, the editor of Wired’s website, announced that she is leaving her job next week, and said that, like Ishmael and Tran, “I am totally drained.” Scott Rosenfield, Wired’s site director, is also leaving….

It’s hard not to see that the collective masthead changes reflect the media industry at a turning point. New editors must juggle the pressures of a treacherous business climate for news; demands, among many staffers and audiences, for greater diversity and equity; and the need for visionary leadership. A source recently told Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo that the Post is looking for a “unicorn”: “an editor of Marty Baron’s stature, but one who has a passport with many more stamps and who is much more in touch with the journalists of tomorrow.” The Post isn’t the only major outlet in need of such a figure.

Speak Your Mind