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Pioneer Press editor Thom Fladung leaving for Cleveland

Updates: Note from publisher Guy Gilmore added. Plain Dealer story here.

A stunner, but maybe not when you think about it: Editor Thom Fladung is leaving the Pioneer Press to become the Cleveland Plain Dealer's managing editor Feb. 14.

I don't think it's a stretch to say Fladung was much-admired in the PiPress newsroom. He's faced a brutal operating environment — newsroom headcount dropped significantly until recently, when he was finally allowed to replace, and even augment, departing staffers. (Several of left for MPR's relative stability, or the Star Tribune's higher profile).

But Fladung, who arrived from the Detroit Free Press in 2005, was well-liked as a guy with a good hard-news sensibility who defended the newsroom as best he could from corporate cutting.

That dynamic might help explain why he's leaving, though as the memo below notes, there are other reasons. I also wonder if the lightning-quick negotiations over extending the PiPress labor agreement, finalized last week, had anything to do with the timing.

Fladung wasn't in the office today; more later. Here's the memo:

Fellow staffers: I am leaving the Pioneer Press to become the managing editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

I'm taking this step for a number of professional and personal reasons. My new boss, Plain Dealer editor Debra Adams Simmons, was a colleague in Detroit. She's a talented, dynamic editor, we share many of the same philosophies and approaches, and I'm very excited to have the chance to work with her again. Also, my wife's company is based just outside Cleveland, so she now will be able to return to the headquarters, after years of telecommuting. And we have many family members and friends in Ohio. 

For us, this is going home.

The Plain Dealer, particularly in recent years under the leadership of just departed editor Susan Goldberg and Deb, has excelled at hard-edge breaking news and enterprise. I look forward to joining that battle.

That also should sound familiar to all of you. The Pioneer Press, TwinCities.com and all the other publications we do have a bright future, I believe. Because of journalists like you, who keep giving readers stories, photos, videos, graphics, headlines and more that can't be found anywhere else.

I start in Cleveland on Feb. 14. I'll leave here shortly before then. Between now and then, I'll look for opportunities to particularly deliver one simple message. And I'll take that first opportunity right now: Thank you.

Thom

Publisher Guy Gilmore's staff memo (with the requisite, if unnamed, Strib-tweaking):

This morning Thom announced his plans to join the Cleveland Plain Dealer as managing editor. Though he will be with us for a while longer, there’s no time like today to wish him well.

In a time of high drama for the industry, Thom was a low drama leader. He operated here with near total autonomy. He was quick and decisive. As the economy worsened and newspapers restructured, Thom resolutely worked things out here at the Pioneer Press.

And though Thom was highly autonomous, he was not an isolationist. He understood the broader business objectives of the Pioneer Press and actively worked with fellow department heads to help achieve those goals.

There are successes on Thom’s watch that are perhaps too seldom recognized. The Pioneer Press, for decades the dominant newspaper in the East Metro and Western Wisconsin, became even more dominant in recent years. For instance, since March of 2005, Pioneer Press Sunday home delivery (print) has been essentially flat, off about 2,600 copies over five years. Over the same period, our counterparts to the west saw print Sunday home delivery fall by over 115,000 copies. It’s a remarkable contrast.

Thom will be the first to say that he has not done it alone, that he leaves behind a healthy fully functioning newsroom, and an operating committee that supports its mission.

As Thom moves to his next challenge, the process of identifying a successor begins.

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Comments (1)

This is certainly a step up for Fladung.