The editorial-page editor is the pivotal position at any competent daily newspaper. Executive and managing editors may run the day-to-day newsroom operations, but a chief of the editorial page gaves the paper its flavor, unique to the local community it serves. A good editorial-page boss provides a page that provokes people. Blandness is a mortal sin.
Robert Leger has been the editorial-page editor of the Springfield News-Leader for more than a decade. He's leaving this month to become assistant editorial-page editor at the Arizona Republic, one of the nation's biggest newspapers, with a Sunday circ of 550,000.
As Andy notes over at Rhetorica.net, it's big local news. Leger has been with the News-Leader for a quarter-century, so he's intimately familiar with the Ozarks. His institutional knowledge is irreplacable.
But he will be replaced, of course, and because it's a big deal, it's worth speculating on who gets the job. Imagine the possibilities:
•Brian Lewis, current No. 2 in editorial. Dibs because he's already there, and because he's the most conservative local voice with a regular column. It also doesn't hurt that Lewis is a minority, a fact that's important to Gannett, the paper's corporate parent. Gannett so believes in diversity that it has something called the All-American Review; one component requires managers to measure and record
"the numbers and percentages of minority journalists and managers" in every newsroom. Promoting Lewis would be good politics for Lewis' bosses.
•Kathleen O'Dell, a senior writer who covers health issues. Probably the best writer in the newsroom, and has the institutional history needed for the job.
•Bil Tatum, city editor. Longtimer, good writer and editor, local.
•Jan Peterson, news editor. Another local who's worked up the ranks and knows the importance of the editorial page.
•Sarah Overstreet. Has strong opinions, isn't afraid to write about them.
•Michael Brothers. You know, the music guy. Hey, he's young, smart and -- what's that word? Ah, yes. Cheeky. Prolific writer, too.
•Steve Koehler. Veteran scribe, used to run sports, and Christ, can you imagine Koehler running the editorial page? It would never be boring.
Leger's Sunday column is a must-read for everyone we know. Even when we disagree with the Lege, we know he's got a reasoned, factual argument to make. His departure from the News-Leader is a great loss -- for the paper and its readers.