Free Press Loses A Key Boss At a Tough Time
After suffering a number of key departures over the past several months and facing future layoffs, the Free Press on Tuesday learned it is losing arguably the most important figure in the newsroom, Senior Managing Editor Jeff Taylor.
Taylor, 50, was named editor of the Indianapolis Star, which, like the Free Press, is owned by the Gannett Company.
The No. 2 person at the paper under Editor and Publisher Paul Anger, Taylor is a widely respected newsman whose imprint was felt on virtually every significant story the paper published for the past several years, especially its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2008.
Taylor okayed each major story and project, and often participated in the final editing of important pieces. He also oversaw the makeup of the paper’s front page, and he frequently initiated stories himself. His calm and even-handedness helped soothe pressures around deadlines and other issues.
As a young reporter in Kansas City, Taylor and a colleague won a Pulitzer for their coverage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he emphasized investigative journalism both as a managing editor and earlier, in management positions on the metro desk.
"Jeff is a huge loss for the Free Press," said longtime reporter Jim Schaefer. "He's one of those editors who puts very important journalism first on his list, and all the other headaches about this struggling industry second.
"Plus, he'd been in the trenches, and that means credibility with the troops."
Taylor's loss is actually a double-whammy for the paper because Taylor is married to Jo-Ann Barnas, a graceful feature writer who also covers Olympic sports for the sports department.
The paper has lost a number of important staffers in the past year, most recently sports columnist Michael Rosenberg, who moved to Sports Illustrated. Among the other departures were a top newsroom editor, the auto editor and the investigations editor.
Gannett executives recently switched the Free Press from a division it shared only with USA Today to one it shares with dozens of papers, and employees in Detroit heard Anger say Monday future staff reductions are a virtual certainty, and there is talk of a radically redesigned newsroom. Through retirements, buyouts and layoffs, the Free Press has lost about one-third of its staff in the past five years. The paper's contract with the Newspaper Guild expires in November.
Taylor's duties will be split among other top editors.