Media Watch

Life After Stoeffler

Before too long, we should see Lee Enterprises filing one heck of a Form 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For the uninitiated, an 8-K is the form publicly held companies use to report unusual situations that might affect the company's financial status or, more immediately, the price of its stock.

David Stoeffler's decision to take a leave from his vice presidential post with Lee Enterprises and his duties as the Arizona Daily Star's publisher and editor was quite the thunderclap. Lee announced Nov. 1 that about 10 percent of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's 130 employees had accepted buyout packages. Some 300 employees were offered the buyouts.

On Nov. 4, P-D Editor Ellen Soeteber resigned, in part because she couldn't come to grips with the company on financial issues. Her announcement to reporters also referred to matters related to newspaper resources--likely a veiled reference to the buyouts, as 41 of the 130 departing employees are newsroom folk.

But back to the Star. Stoeffler's leaving is a pretty hard hit for the Star, which was taking its first good steps on a new course.

Stoeffler made a big mark in a hurry, working hard to get to know more of Tucson than the country clubbers and the business elite. And his large-scale moves--dumping Ann Coulter's column and scuttling the redesign of the Star's editorial pages--revealed him to be someone who didn't dawdle about a decision.

He was, simply put, someone the Star has needed for a long time--someone who'd acquired plenty of experience elsewhere, and really had the power to make changes.

Although there've been reassuring comments from Lee's Davenport, Iowa, headquarters about Stoeffler leaving a strong blueprint for further renovation at the Star, the question to be answered later is whether he'd been there long enough for his changes to take root, or how they'll proceed without having him around to tweak things as conditions warrant.

Shooting a guess from the Star's Nov. 1 story, it would be fair to assume Bobbie Jo Buel has the inside track on the job--if she chooses to take it.

It was interesting to read the paragraph that read: "Potential candidates include Bobbie Jo Buel, the Star's executive editor, said Dan Hayes, Lee's vice president of communications."

Make you wonder if the reporter asked for the names of other "potential candidates." And it's a little odd, perhaps, that Hayes would go public with her name without knowing if she'd put in for the job, and that at that time, Bobbie Jo herself said she hadn't decided if she'd apply.