Kirk in command: 'Today, we present Chicago with a new voice’
In all his years as a reporter and columnist — including those when we competed head-to-head on the media beat — Jim Kirk always chose his words with precision and care. I never once recall him hyping a story.
So when new editor-in-chief Kirk announced the restructuring of Sun-Times editorial operations Wednesday, his prose came as something of a surprise. What could have been a run-of-the-mill memo about personnel changes turned out to be a rousing challenge to his staff, laying down a marker to colleagues and competitors alike.
Calling this a turning point for the newspaper industry and a matter of survival for the Sun-Times, he declared: “Today, we set out a path to move this great institution into a new age — finally and definitively. We are no longer a newspaper company. We are a technology company that happens to publish a newspaper. We deliver content. And we will deliver content on many platforms and in ways that we haven’t yet fully considered.”
He wrote of the need for “thinking in vastly different ways,” and “undertaking a bold transformation,” saying: “Today, we present Chicago with a new voice. One that builds on our traditional newsgathering and uses every tool at our disposal to disseminate information in new forms. We will use our resources across the city and suburbs in ways that will make us an even more powerful reporting and content force in the region.”
And he vowed to uphold journalism, calling it “the hallmark of what we do and why people are willing to pay for our content.” Without credibility, Kirk added, “we have nothing.”
To help achieve his goals, he promoted two insiders to key positions and stole a third away from the Chicago Tribune, where Kirk worked for more than a decade. (In a not-so-veiled shot at his former employer, he wrote: “We can be like our competitors and limp along, hoping for a recovery to get us through to the next economic dip. Or we can lead.”)
Named managing editor of the Sun-Times was Craig Newman, who joined the paper as deputy design director in 2003 and rose to head of production and respected leader of its online news operation. “While overseeing the day-to-day operations of our news delivery, he will be responsible for helping move all of Sun-Times Media to a digital-first focus,” Kirk said. “He has the right mindset to move us in this most important direction.”
Sports editor Chris DeLuca, a 16-year veteran of the Sun-Times, was named deputy managing editor of news and sports.
And in what Kirk called “a crucial hire for us,” Tribune lifestyle editor Linda Bergstrom was hired as deputy managing editor over all features content at the Sun-Times and Sun-Times Media. “As we look to expand our footprint in content areas that stretch from health to entertainment, Linda brings a wealth of experience and ideas,” Kirk said. “She is a natural leader who can look at any situation and give you a dozen ways to address them. I’m thrilled she is joining our team, and I assure you she will make an impact immediately.”
In a related move, Meg Moore, a senior editor at the company’s Pioneer Press who oversaw the weekly chain’s Trend section, was named editor of the Sun-Times new entertainment and culture Pulse section. She previously was editorial manager of special sections for the Sun-Times advertising department.
Absent from Kirk’s new roster was a deputy managing editor for business, an area identified by Michael Ferro, chairman of parent company Wrapports LLC, as key to the Sun-Times’ editorial expansion. "We're going to be increasing the business section exponentially," Ferro told the City Club last week. Some insiders at Crain’s Chicago Business, where Kirk previously headed editorial operations, took that as a direct threat.
Leaving the Sun-Times after 28 years is managing editor Andrew Herrmann. But unlike three others who preceded him in recent weeks (executive editor John Barron, editor-in-chief Don Hayner and features editor Amanda Barrett), Herrmann will continue with the company. On Wednesday, Kirk appointed him editor-in-chief of three west suburban dailies — the Naperville Sun, the Aurora Beacon-News and the Elgin Courier-News.
Saying Herrmann had “served admirably as managing editor through some of the most difficult times this company has faced,” Kirk called him “a seasoned editor who knows first-hand about transforming newsrooms.”
Herrmann, 52, who grew up in north suburban Beach Park and now lives in west suburban Riverside, is a journalism graduate of Southern Illinois University and has a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Before he was named managing editor in 2009, he’d been a section editor, Sunday editor, assistant city editor, religion editor, editorial writer, columnist and reporter. For 10 years, he also appeared as a regular guest on John Williams’ show with a week-in-review segment on news/talk WGN-AM (720).
“My goal for the west group is pretty much the same goal as it has been since the day I started with the company as an intern in 1984: what can I do to make the paper better? Today, of course, that includes the web, but it’s the same idea,” Herrmann told me.
“What I am going to miss is seeing — and being inspired by — the Sun-Times reporters, editors and photogs who work at 350 North Orleans every day. What smart, fascinating, and talented people they are. I’ll still be in contact with many of the people who work at the flagship as we share content. I’m happy about that. I think the company is headed for great things and I’m pleased I am still part of it.”