Driven by cost-cutting in the beleaguered Florida newspaper market, News Chief Publisher Nelson Kirkland (left) resigned, effective Thursday, and his job was eliminated, according to a story in the nearby Ledger of Lakeland, Fla.
His departure from the Winter Haven paper after two years was presented as amicable, although his supervisor -- Ledger Publisher Jerome Ferson -- told the paper: "Rather than accept an important position elsewhere in the company, Nelson Kirkland decided to leave the News Chief at the beginning of the month."
"My departure comes down to a business decision,'' Kirkland, 47, told the Ledger. "I'm very proud of the people I had a chance to work with. I will soon be a free agent, and that opens the door for many possibilities."
Will papers stay separate?
The NYT Co. bought the Chief from Gatehouse Media in March 2008. The Chief and the Ledger are just 18 miles apart (see interactive map, below) -- contributing to fears that the two papers could be combined. Addressing those concerns, the Ledger story said editorial operations will remain separate.
Following Kirkland's resignation, two of the Chief's senior managers will now report to Ledger executives: the managing editor to Ferson, and the advertising manager to the Ledger's advertising director.
Kirkland had been the Ledger's advertising director before being named Chief publisher.
The shake-up comes as Florida newspapers continue struggling with the aftershocks of the mortgage meltdown and the great recession. The Ledger's circulation plunged 11.4% to 47,872 as of Sept. 30 from a year before, the paper says, citing Audit Bureau of Circulations data. Sunday fell 10.6% to 62,317. The Chief's figures were not included in the ABC report.
Across the newspaper industry, companies have slashed costs by eliminating high-paying jobs. The nation's No. 1 publisher, Gannett Co., has retired a number of publishers in recent years, assigning their duties to other executives who then supervise several publications simultaneously.
Related: the Chief's entry in Wikipedia
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[Image: today's Ledger, Newseum]