Dave Butler, editor in chief of nationwide newspaper chain Digital First Media, announced on Wednesday that he plans to retire sometime this fall.
In a memo to senior editors of Digital First Media, Butler said his departure was motivated by “personal and professional reasons” and made reference to a thwarted sale of the company that might have seen him replaced by new managers.
“As many of you know, I turned 65 in June and my wife Kate has been spending much of her time working out of AP’s headquarters in New York,” Butler wrote. “Like many of you, we had expected that the company would be sold and that new management would come — and I would go out! Well, that obviously didn’t happen so I have been reflecting on what to do and concluded that for personal and professional reasons, now is the right time to go.”
In the memo, Butler said he will assist in the search to find a new head editor for the company, the second-largest newspaper group in the United States by circulation.
Butler’s successor will inherit a company that has gone through many upheavals in recent years. Jim Brady, the editor who preceded Butler at the helm of Digital First Media, left the newspaper chain in 2014 after upper management shuttered an initiative that aimed to centralize aspects of newspaper production. The New York-based Thunderdome employed dozens of digital journalists, many of whom took jobs at other news organizations after the effort was closed.
That tumult was followed this year by the departure of CEO John Paton, widely regarded to be a champion of digital news within the company. His exit coincided with the collapse of a deal that might have seen the company’s newspapers sold en masse to a mystery buyer, possibly Apollo Global Management LLC.
In lieu of a deal, Digital First Media has been adjusting its balance sheet by cutting expenses. In July, media analyst Ken Doctor reported that the company was downsizing its newsrooms, cutting about 150 employees company-wide. Steve Rossi, president and CEO of Digital First Media, alluded to the company’s financial headwinds in a statement to The San Jose Mercury News.
“Despite the secular challenges facing our business, under Dave’s stewardship, our talented newsrooms have continued to produce quality journalism and serve our communities well,” Rossi said.
Butler, who took over for Brady in April 2014, is a longtime newspaper executive. According to Digital First Media, he has been editor of the New Haven Register, Editor and Executive Vice President for News for the Los Angeles Daily News and Vice President for News for MediaNews Group.
Here’s the memo:
Fellow DFM senior editors and BANG colleagues:
I have decided to retire as DFM’s editor-in-chief and BANG’s editor sometime this fall. In the meantime, I will help the company find candidates and assist with the transition while we all carry on business like usual.
I want to thank all of you for your support and help over the years. It has been my privilege to be your colleague.
As many of you know, I turned 65 in June and my wife Kate has been spending much of her time working out of AP’s headquarters in New York. Like many of you, we had expected that the company would be sold and that new management would come in — and I would go out!
Well, that obviously didn’t happen so I have been reflecting on what to do and concluded that for personal and professional reasons, now is the right time to go. It’s time for the next generation of leaders to take over. The next many months will be a critical time for DFM as it must adapt more quickly to digital and financial realities while finding ways to maintain the kind of public service and watch dog journalism that remains so important.
I want to give a special thanks to Steve Rossi, Sharon Ryan, Mac Tully and Guy Gilmore. They have allowed me to have very much of a free hand overseeing DFM and BANG news and editorial while supporting me and putting up with me as I often offered — ah, shall we say — a contrarian point of view.
Special thanks also goes to my BANG management team — Bert, Randy, Tiffany, Barb and Dan and their colleagues. Their expertise and self-reliance not only has maintained superior news and editorial quality, but it also has allowed me to spend much time on DFM matters. I want to give a special shout out to DFM’s senior editor group, too. Their support has been crucial as we all try to navigate an uncertain future. And of course without the daily support of Theresa Martinez in the East Bay and Veronica Vargas at the Merc, I would have been lost.
I’ll be around for several weeks so I’m sure we’ll have plenty of opportunities to chat about the past and the future. Again thanks to all.