Gannett’s surprise replacement of Tennessean publisher Craig Moon has lifted morale among staffers and probably will improve relations with the downtown business community. But don’t expect it to impact the increasingly irrelevant daily product.
“I’m actually looking forward to coming to work on Monday,” one Gannettoid said Friday afternoon as well-wishers congratulated the paper’s new publisher, Leslie Giallombardo.
Smart, well-liked and respected on both the news and business sides of the paper, Giallombardo has worked in advertising and marketing since joining The Tennessean in 1995. For the last three years, she has worked closely with Moon, sources say, and was essentially the publisher’s second in command on non-news matters.
Still, her selection was unexpected. Gannett normally rotates publishers from smaller papers to larger ones. “I can’t think of any case in recent years in which Gannett has picked a publisher of one of its larger papers who has never held that job before,” says one source familiar with the nation’s largest newspaper chain.
“But she’s that good,” the source adds.
Giallombardo says that her varied experience at the paper explains her promotion. “This was not an unusual promotion in that my former position of senior vice president of marketing...gave me exposure and authority over several divisions,” she says. “Had I been responsible for one single area of the business, such as advertising, for example, I may have gone to a medium-size newspaper first.”
To frontline reporters in the newsroom, one Gannett suit looks pretty much like another. Corporate policies that put underwear ads on the op-ed page aren’t going to change. But in terms of personal style, no one seems sorry to see Giallombardo take Moon’s place.
Moon, though, won’t be looking back. He has clearly gone to greener Gannettoid pastures.
As executive vice president of Gannett’s newspaper division, Moon will assume control of three large newspaper “groups,” all in the Northeast. He will report directly to (and may eventually replace) division president Gary Watson.
Being a publisher’s publisher may suit Moon more than being Gannett’s local corporate face. While Giallombardo has been active in local community activities, Moon was notoriously aloof.
“The only time he’d come around was when he wanted something,” says one businessman who has been active in both the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Partnership.
Giallombardo, a friend says, is “very sensitive to how the paper is perceived in the community” and will work to improve it.
And if the new publisher stays out of the newsroom, editor Frank Sutherland can perhaps figure out how to salvage the new “Davidson A.M.” section, which Giallombardo characterizes charitably as “providing extensive coverage of education and growth.”
Moon, by the way, has also assumed the title of Tennessean “chairman,” a heretofore unknown position, which apparently has no job description. The chairman will have no authority over Giallombardo, however. She will report to the reorganized Southern newspaper group, which is outside Moon’s domain.
The story of Moon’s leaving broke on NashvillePost.com at least 10 minutes before the news appeared on The Tennessean’s own Web site. Unaccountably, Gannett headquarters issued a press release Friday afternoon instead of allowing its Nashville paper to break the news Saturday morning.
Caddy at the keyboard
It doesn’t take an expert in workplace dynamics to understand that delivering a flip insult to a colleague you disagree with doesn’t exactly promote office harmony. But The Tennessean’s Dwight Lewis perhaps could use a primer in professional relations, after writing in his April 14 Sunday column that his colleague, columnist Tim Chavez, should “get a life.” Chavez committed the unpardonable offense of criticizing Fisk University, where Lewis’ wife went to college and where Lewis works as a part-time instructor.
Earlier this month, Chavez, an unpredictable neoconservative, wrote a column accusing the students at the predominantly black Fisk of being segregationists. In fact, the students at the university aren’t asking that whites be kept out, but that school officials curtail recruitment efforts to bring a higher percentage of white students than already exists. Dwight Lewis could have made that case in a professional counter-column, writing something like “while I respect my colleague Tim Chavez very much, he doesn’t understand the continuing need for a largely African American institution.”
Instead, Lewis, the paper’s lone black news columnist, offered none of the typical formalities that help keep such disagreements civil. He personalized the issue, took cheap shots at his colleague and otherwise obscured a few effective arguments.
The following Tuesday, Chavez responded to Lewis’ column, citing statistics showing that Fisk isn’t nearly as diverse as Bob Jones University, the perceived bastion of white conservatism. Chavez didn’t mention Lewis by name, however. When contacted by phone later that week, both columnists, who write for thousands and thousands of readers, confirmed they have yet to speak since the very public disagreement ensued. Guys, stroll down to 12th & Porter and talk it out over a few beers. We’ll even pick up the tab.