Sacramento Bee editor resigns in dispute over paper |

Sacramento Bee editor resigns in dispute over paper

SACRAMENTO ” The Sacramento Bee’s top editor resigned today in a dispute over the long-term direction of the newspaper.

Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez, 53, led the newspaper for nine years and was one of the highest-ranking Hispanic newspaper executives in the country.

In a statement, Bee Publisher and President Janis Heaphy said the two had agreed to part ways and that their disagreement was not about the paper’s staffing.

“Rick and I differ over my vision for the long-term future direction of The Bee,” Heaphy said. “We have both agreed not to publicly discuss these differences, though they are not based on differences over resources or our continuing aspirations for excellent journalism.”

In a separate news release distributed by the Bee, Rodriguez said he was proud of the reputation McClatchy’s flagship newspaper had built during his tenure.

“I’ve had the experience of a lifetime working at The Bee and am grateful to the passionate journalists who have dedicated themselves to this paper and to working with me,” he said.

Rodriguez joined McClatchy in 1979. He worked as a political reporter and editorial writer before being named managing editor of the Bee in 1993. He was promoted to executive editor in 1998.

The Salinas native also is a past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

According to a story posted on the Bee’s Web site, Rodriguez told the newsroom Thursday that he planned to take a couple months off before returning as a consultant to McClatchy’s vice president for news.

After his newsroom resignation speech, Rodriguez hugged and shook hands with staffers, some in tears.

His departure came as shares of the Bee’s parent, McClatchy Co., fell to a 52-week low to close at $17.35 on Thursday. The shares have been declining steadily over the past two years, and are down from $39 a share in late June of 2006, when McClatchy completed its acquisition of Knight Ridder Inc.

On Wednesday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services also placed the company’s debt ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications, meaning it may cut McClatchy’s debt rating further into junk territory.

The Sacramento-based company is the third-largest newspaper publisher in the country by circulation, after Gannett Co. and Tribune Co.

In addition to The Sacramento Bee, other California newspapers owned by McClatchy include The Fresno Bee, The Modesto Bee and The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

In December, the Bee closed its bureaus in Los Angeles and San Francisco and offered buyout packages to a handful of editorial employees.

Heaphy said Managing Editor Joyce Terhaar will oversee the newspaper’s editorial operations while she prepares to name a successor to Rodriguez. His replacement will not come from the ranks of The Sacramento Bee but rather will be someone working elsewhere for McClatchy, the newspaper quoted Heaphy as saying.

“Rick’s leadership has given The Bee a solid foundation,” Heaphy said. “I am confident that his successor will build upon that legacy.”


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