The money-losing San Francisco Chronicle just announced that Arizona Republic Editor Ward Bushee (left) will be its new top editor. "Ward brings a wealth of news experience and journalistic vision to the Chronicle team," Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega, a former long-time Gannett executive, said in a statement. "He has long been recognized as an editor who instills strong journalistic values, integrity and sense of community at the newspapers he leads."
Bushee, 58, is coming to one of the nation's most challenging newspaper markets. Northern California has become Ground Zero for many of the technology trends hurting papers. On a percentage basis, the 365,234-circulation (daily) Chronicle has lost more subscribers in recent years than virtually any other U.S. paper. Plus, it lost up to $100 million in 2007 alone -- leading to speculation that it might be the first major U.S. paper to go Web-only.
Separately, the Republic announced that Executive Editor Randy Lovely, 43, (left) will replace Bushee. The Republic is Gannett's biggest-circulation paper after USA Today.
Bushee is one of the most honored and most influential editors in Gannett. But much of his success is tied to his long-time patron, Sue Clark-Johnson, the Newspaper Division president who recently announced plans to retire in May. What's more, the Republic -- once a star in the Gannett constellation -- has lately been a drag on revenue because of the collapse of real estate prices in Phoenix. I suspect as well that a big chunk of Bushee's compensation has been in Gannett stock options that are now worthless, another reason to leave GCI.
Bushee has been with Gannett 21 years, Chronicle owner Hearst noted. He was named Editor of the Year three times and 11 times won the company's President’s Ring, awarded to outstanding top editors. Under his leadership, Hearst says, the Reno Gazette-Journal and The Arizona Republic respectively were honored with Newspaper of the Year awards.
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[Photos: Bushee, Gannett; Lovely, Republic]