Bruce Dold out as Chicago Tribune publisher, editor-in-chief

Bruce Dold (Photo: Bill Healy)

In a top-level shakeup by the new corporate overlords of Tribune Publishing, Bruce Dold is out as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Tribune, and Peter Kendall is out as managing editor.

Succeeding Dold in the editor-in-chief role is Colin McMahon, who will continue in his current position as chief content officer for Tribune Publishing.

Colin McMahon

All three actions were announced Thursday in an email to staff from Terry Jimenez, who moved up earlier this month from chief financial officer to chief executive officer and president of Tribune Publishing.

The role of Chicago Tribune publisher apparently has been eliminated, with McMahon assigned to report to Par Ridder, general manager of Chicago Tribune Media Group.

The changes occur as Alden Global Capital steps up as Tribune Publishing’s largest stockholder. The New York-based hedge fund is widely believed to be planning deep cuts at Tribune newspapers in keeping with its reputation for sweeping layoffs and other aggressive measures at its news operations.

Dold, a 42-year veteran of the Tribune, was a reporter, columnist and editorial page editor before he was named publisher and editor-in-chief in 2016. He won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. His last day at the Tribune will be April 30.

“I’m proud of the work that I’ve overseen, and I’m proud of the incredible newsroom that we’ve got,” Dold told me. He said he hopes to continue working in journalism or in the civic foundation realm. “The most gratifying piece in this is the feeling that you’re community building and city building. So whatever form that takes, that’s what I’d like to do.”

Kendall, a 32-year veteran of the Tribune, has been managing editor of content since 2015. His last day will be Friday.

McMahon, a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, joined the Tribune in 1987 as a copy editor after stints as a reporter and editor at the Dayton Journal Herald and two other Ohio newspapers. He covered national politics and crime for the Tribune and later became a foreign correspondent posted in Baghdad, Buenos Aires, Moscow and Mexico City. Back in Chicago he served as foreign editor and national content editor before he was named cross media editor and associate editor. He was promoted to his current role in 2019.

“Colin is well suited for this position given his experience at Chicago Tribune and his recent role as chief content officer guiding Tribune Publishing newsrooms on digital transformation, audience analytics and culture change,” Jimenez wrote.

Here is the text of Jimenez’s email to staff:

Colleagues,
 
I am pleased to announce that Colin McMahon has been appointed Editor-in-Chief of Chicago Tribune effective immediately. Colin is well suited for this position given his experience at Chicago Tribune and his recent role as Chief Content Officer guiding Tribune Publishing newsrooms on digital transformation, audience analytics and culture change.
 
In his Editor-in-Chief role, Colin will report to Par Ridder, General Manager of Chicago Tribune Media Group. Colin also will continue his role of Chief Content Officer and will retain oversight of Tribune Content Agency’s editorial team; he will continue to report to me in this capacity. The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board will report directly to Par.
 
With these changes, Bruce Dold, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, will be leaving the organization. Bruce’s last day will be April 30th. He will assist Colin and Par over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition for the newsroom. I want to thank Bruce for his 42 years of exceptional service. Bruce has received numerous accolades throughout his stellar career, most notably the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing. He has earned the respect and admiration of the community and of so many of his colleagues. I am grateful for his decades of meaningful contributions and commitment to local journalism.
 
Peter Kendall, Managing Editor, will also be leaving Chicago Tribune. Peter’s last day will be February 28th. I would like to thank Peter for his leadership and 32 years of service as a reporter, editor and newsroom pillar.
 
Chicago Tribune is a vital institution and carries weight all over Chicagoland, the state of Illinois and the entire Midwest region. Colin has been a key player in the Tribune newsroom – associate editor, foreign editor and longtime correspondent, metropolitan reporter— and understands the irreplaceable value journalism brings to a community. I am confident that under Colin’s leadership our Chicago newsroom will continue to produce groundbreaking journalism and advance the legacy that began nearly 175 years ago.
 
I look forward to seeing Par, Colin and the entire Chicago Tribune team make a quick and positive impact.
 
Best,
Terry Jimenez
CEO & President
Tribune Publishing

Here is the text of Dold’s email to staff:

Colleagues,

It has been the honor of my life to work for the Chicago Tribune, starting as a Suburban Trib reporter on the Skokie beat, covering Chicago’s City Hall, serving as editorial writer, columnist, editorial page editor and, for the last four years, as publisher and editor-in-chief.

I love the Chicago Tribune, revel in its history and take pride in the standing it has in this city today.

It has been a privilege to work with Peter Kendall and John McCormick, who are leaving as well.

Peter is one of the most ethical, honest, creative and compassionate editors I have ever known. He is an exceptional leader and has been an outstanding managing editor.

John has been my partner here for 20 years. I treasure the work we did together on the editorial board to encourage open and honest government, to keep powerful leaders in check, and to engage readers in such efforts as Chicago Forward and the New Plan of Chicago.

I am in awe of all of you, the journalists in our newsroom, who show such commitment to this work and such resilience in the face of enormous challenges.

You have embraced the race to a digital future. Even more important, you have enriched the lives of our readers and the larger community. Because of your work in recent years, pharmacies take better care of their patients, Chicago Public Schools students are better protected from predators, the local property tax system is fairer and more transparent, children are no longer subjected to the traumatic experience of isolation rooms.

In countless other ways, you have made Chicago a better place.

I’m confident you will succeed under the newsroom leadership of Colin McMahon and Chrissy Taylor and the editorial board leadership of Kristen McQueary.

I will be here for the next few weeks to complete a smooth transition. I look forward to finding new ways to help Chicago thrive.

Thank you.

Bruce

Here is the text of McMahon’s email to staff:

All,
 
I am honored by the opportunity to lead the Chicago Tribune newsroom, and I look forward to getting down to work immediately alongside such a talented team of journalists.
 
I first want to thank Bruce Dold for all his contributions to the newspaper. Even putting aside the Pulitzer Prize that Bruce won and those he contributed to as an editor, Bruce built a journalism career at the Tribune that is among the most worthy this town has seen. He has led with insight and integrity while remaining fair-minded and unflappable even in the most stressful of times. A debt of gratitude also goes to Peter Kendall, whom I have considered a friend since we both came to the joint. Peter’s mix of intelligence, wit and passion for the craft of journalism will be missed.
 
We will have an all-hands meeting at 11 a.m. today at the steps. I look forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues and hearing what’s on your mind.
 
Here are some thoughts I will share:

The Tribune newsroom remains a potent force. We still have plenty of resources to commit journalism that engages readers and betters the community. Even amid all the changes—with more changes to come—the staff remains talented and passionate, the audience remains large and willing, and the region remains in need of a news organization committed to delivering on the kind of mission that CEO Terry Jimenez shared with the company early this month.

Resources will remain under pressure. The flexibility you have shown over the last decade will stay in severe demand as we realign and reallocate to take on new challenges and opportunities. Our decisions throughout that process will be driven by a commitment—sophisticated, but unflinching–to follow the data where it leads us.

I’m committed to opening space for journalists to try new approaches and work with greater autonomy so long as those efforts are data-driven, measurable and contribute to our overall goals. This approach will not only serve the readers and the Chicago Tribune; it also will make the Tribune a more attractive and fulfilling place to work.

Our audiences and our industry are changing more rapidly and more dramatically than we are. This newsroom has delivered astonishing results through remarkable efforts to adapt. But as quickly as it might feel we are transforming, we remain behind. I will demand a higher sense of urgency–about our coverage, about the challenges of the industry, about our competition.

We are lucky to be part of a respected media company with talented newsrooms in multiple cities. We have a strong syndication unit and premium content team in Tribune Content Agency. Our print Design and Production Studio is accomplished and getting stronger. All this helps us immeasurably on the business side. But we don’t take full advantage in editorial. In my continuing role as chief content officer of Tribune Publishing, I will have the Chicago Tribune tap into more of those resources so the journalists in our shop can concentrate on the work that our local readers find relevant and valuable to their lives.

Out of necessity, “do more with less” has become a mantra of our industry. But my goal (which, like a lot of this, granted, is easier said than done) is to eventually eliminate that false equation. Instead of trying to hold on to all that we’ve had, we must make smart choices about what we do, how we do it and what we leave behind.
 
I look forward to discussing these ideas and hearing your questions this morning. In the meantime, let me leave you with a final thought:
 
This business we’re in, it’s not for the timid. It’s not for the nostalgic. It’s for people like you: Clear-eyed. Fire in the belly. Ready for what comes next.
 
Thanks for reading. See you soon.