Kathryn Christensen to head Sun news staff

June 25, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

Kathryn Christensen, a senior producer of ABC Television's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and a reporter and editor for 11 years with the Wall Street Journal, has been named managing editor of The Sun.

Ms. Christensen, 42, will begin her new job by Aug. 1.

As managing editor, Ms. Christensen will be the chief of Baltimore's morning newspaper, overseeing local, national and foreign news coverage and a staff of about 250 in Maryland, Washington and in bureaus overseas. The Sun has a daily circulation of 243,609 and a Sunday circulation of 494,091.

"Our goal is a first-class newspaper," said John S. Carroll, editor of The Baltimore Sun, which publishes both The Sun and The Evening Sun. "I think she has the potential to create that."

In New York, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who described himself as "a fan" of Ms. Christensen, said he tried to persuade her not to take the Baltimore offer.

"She's tough," he said of Ms. Christensen, who since January 1990 has been senior producer of international news for his broadcast.

"I think one of the hallmarks of her stay here is what an advocate she's been for correspondents, what [newspapers] call reporters," Mr. Jennings added. "She's really terrific. I tried to convince her to stay. I think she has newspapering in her veins."

From her ABC News office yesterday, Ms. Christensen said she had not been thinking of a career change until Mr. Carroll offered her the job of managing editor. She said she accepted because "anybody who has any experience in journalism knows that The Sun has a great history and a great tradition."

Mr. Carroll said he recruited Ms. Christensen on the enthusiastic recommendations of colleagues at the Wall Street Journal. "I liked her background," Mr. Carroll said. "She's done local news. She's worked in national bureaus for the Journal. She's done foreign news. Most of all, I liked the feelings the people who worked for and with her expressed."

In moving to The Sun, Ms. Christensen becomes the first woman managing editor in the paper's 154-year history.

Mr. Carroll said he was "looking for someone who could be an outstanding managing editor, but I was mindful that we have a monolithic group of editors in that they tend to be white and male. I thought it was desirable to try to make a dent in that. But if I hadn't been 100 percent confident of her abilities, I would never have hired her. I would have hired the best person."

Paul Friedman, executive producer of World News Tonight, said Ms. Christensen's work during the Persian Gulf war "made our coverage a lot more level-headed and fair than it otherwise would have been."

At the Wall Street Journal, where Ms. Christensen was the first woman to head a bureau, Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine described her as "a great newsperson."

"She's extremely demanding of herself and the people who work for her," Mr. Pearlstine said.

He added that she is a quick study who adapts well to new jobs. "She went off as our London bureau chief not even having a passport and came back three years later so good at all this that ABC News wanted her for their de facto foreign editor."

Ms. Christensen succeeds James I. Houck, who resigned last month after nine years as managing editor.

Born in Fullerton, Neb., Ms. Christensen is a 1971 graduate of the University of Nebraska. She began her career as a reporter for the Des Moines Register. She later worked for the Chicago Daily News, wrote a marketing column for the Chicago Sun-Times and covered business news for the Charlotte News before moving to the Wall Street Journal. There, from 1979 through 1981, she served as a reporter in the Dallas and San Francisco bureaus, then spent two years as Boston bureau chief. She was New York news editor from 1983 until she became London bureau chief in 1986. She was made senior editor in New York in July 1989.

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