Jacqueline Thomas, editorial page editor of The Sun and the person responsible for shaping the newspaper's opinion pages and editorial voice the past 4 1/2 years, announced yesterday that she will resign.
Thomas' last day will be Dec. 28. Publisher Michael E. Waller said a replacement will be named next month.
As the top editor for The Sun's editorial and commentary pages, Thomas was the driving force behind the newspaper's editorials criticizing Baltimore's criminal justice system and the city's high murder rate.
She is credited with giving the editorial pages a more local focus, increasing the use of graphics and readers' letters and publishing several long editorial projects, including the "Getting Away With Murder" series in 1999.
A Chicago native who lives in Canton, Thomas said she has no immediate career plans. She expects to remain in Baltimore, writing a book proposal and traveling to develop her French and Spanish language skills.
"I have not retired, but I'm retiring for now," said Thomas, 49. "I just decided it was time to move on and do a lot of the things I've always wanted to do."
Thomas began her 27-year career in journalism as a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. She also worked at the Louisville Times and Courier-Journal, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. In 1983 and 1984, she studied American history as a Nieman fellow at Harvard University.
She took over The Sun's editorial pages after the retirement of Joseph R.L. Sterne, who had held the position for 25 years.
Thomas shifted the editorial pages' focus toward more local, community-oriented topics such as trash collection and mass transit, and away from some of the national and foreign policy issues favored under Sterne's leadership. The changes led to a period of upheaval within the editorial department as many of Sterne's colleagues departed, including longtime political columnist Barry Rascovar, who retired in September.
Sterne declined to assess the changes since his departure, except to say that The Sun's editorial page is markedly different from the way it was. "I think there was a withdrawal from some of the older concepts," Sterne said. "She certainly did institute some rather sweeping changes in personnel."
Thomas plans to remain active with the National Press Foundation, a journalism education organization of which she is chairman-elect.
She said she considers the in-depth editorials published during her tenure, about crime, ethical issues and other topics, to be her greatest contribution to The Sun and that she hopes they have an enduring impact on the quality of life in Baltimore and Maryland.
"I think we elevated crime in Baltimore to the extent that it became the driving issue in a mayoral campaign. That's the kind of thing you hope to accomplish in this job," Thomas said. "We knew that problem wasn't going to go away overnight, but we also knew we couldn't afford to do what papers usually do and just write about it once and say we'd done our part."