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Tribune Gets New Publisher - Head Scratching Ensues



Now that Media General has finally settled on a replacement for 68-year-old retiring Tampa Tribune publisher Gil Thelen, just a few questions remain.

What the heck will Denise Palmer, the 49-year-old publisher of Baltimore's Sun newspaper, do in her new job?

Why did she end a 26-year career with Sun owners the Tribune Co. to come to the Sunshine State?

Why did she intially tell her newsroom in Baltimore with an email, declining to comment even to the Sun reporter who wrote the first story on her departure? (she later provided an interview to the Sun, as early press accounts began to note the lack of comment)

And what does it mean that Palmer -- who made headlines in 2004 when she abruptly fired two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Marimow as the Sun's editor, citing matters of "personality" and "fit" -- is coming to a corner office by the Hillsborough River?

I'm not sure. Mostly because the two people best positioned to talk about why she's coming here -- Palmer and John Schueler, the head of the company which oversees all of
Media General's broadcast, publishing and online properties in Florida -- could not be reached (Schueler) or declined to speak with me (Palmer).

At the Sun, Palmer had to deal with serious labor difficulties, cost-cutting demands from Tribune and more. As Thelen told me today, the ownership of the Trbune, Media General, is a much calmer situation.

But given the Tampa Tribune's organizational structure, it's hard to know where Palmer's influence will be felt. Especially because the editorial page, which is traditionally where publishers set the tone by shaping the paper's opinions, seems heavily influenced by the corporate bigwigs in Richmond, Va.

Of course, there is one place where Palmer will make history for the Tampa Tribune the moment she steps through the door. But when I asked executive editor Janet Weaver whether it makes a difference that the newspaper will now have women in the top three jobs (Palmer, Weaver and editorial page editor Rosemary Goudreau), she sighed in only slightly exaggerated exasperation.

"Lord, I hope we're all past this," Weaver said, noting that in 1999, while editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, they were recognized as the only newspaper above 100,000 circulation with women as publisher, editor and managing editor. "It's not like in Sarasota all the decisions were made in the women's room."

Point taken. But given how the Tribune has raised its game recently, it will be interesting to see how the change in leadership affects the Tampa Bay area's second largest newspaper.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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