Editor to leave Afro-American to become Dixon's chief of staff

McCarthy is planning to start job Dec. 9

November 04, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

After just 11 months on the job, the editor in chief of Baltimore's Afro-American newspaper announced he will leave his post to serve as chief of staff for Sheila Dixon, the city's newly elected City Council president.

He is the newspaper's fourth editor in as many years.

Anthony W. McCarthy plans to begin his work at City Hall when Dixon and the rest of the council take office Dec. 9, with his last day at the newspaper set for Nov. 12, he said.

"I have always loved working in public service and really began to understand when I had conversations with Ms. Dixon that this was a unique opportunity with the enormous changes taking place in government right now," McCarthy said yesterday. "I love this city and I have a strong interest in seeing it live up to its potential."

Publisher John J. Oliver Jr. said McCarthy's move was unexpected. "I'm losing my right arm," he said. "But I wish him all the best luck. We're very sad to see him leave."

The move marks a return to politics for McCarthy, 31, who for years has straddled the line between politics and journalism. He has worked as communications director for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a reporter for the Afro, editor of the mayor's monthly newsletter and -- during the past year -- host of a triweekly radio show on WEAA-FM about local politics.

But the pull of politics after this year's contentious local elections was particularly strong, McCarthy said. "I was surprised by the number of elected officials who approached me over the last two to three weeks on the state and citywide level" about working for them, McCarthy said. "It made my choices difficult."

Dixon said McCarthy was a prime candidate for the job because he brings experience in speechwriting, politics and, perhaps most important, public relations. "He has a lot of good ideas that are in line with what I want to do, [such as] a whole image change for the council," she said.

The job -- officially called chief aide to the City Council president -- has a budgeted salary of $58,400. McCarthy said the figure will be a "significant" raise for him.

In recent years, editors at the Afro -- where readership is about 44,000, according to circulation department figures -- have been short-lived. Four editors have come and gone in the last four years, and 10 have done so in the last 12, according to a source who asked not to be identified.

McCarthy chalked it up to high visibility for staff members who often become attractive candidates for other jobs.

"As much as it is a great work environment, it does breed an environment where people do come and go," he said. "I think the talent at the Afro is always under fire from other publications and other entities to move."

Oliver, great-grandson of John H. Murphy, who founded the newspaper in 1892, said of the high turnover, "I personally don't think it's a big deal." He said he has no firm candidates for a replacement or interim editor.

Nor is he sure whether McCarthy will continue to serve as host of his radio show, "Inside Edition." The show was started in partnership with the station and owners of the Afro-American. "I'd like to see him continue if we can figure out a way to do it," he said.

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