Tribune editor is named Sun editorial page editor

Donovan, winner of top writing award, begins duties Jan. 21

January 08, 2002|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

Dianne Donovan, senior editor for staff recruitment and editorial columnist at the Chicago Tribune, was named yesterday as editor of The Sun's editorial page.

Winner of the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Distinguished Writing Award for editorial writing in 2000, Donovan succeeds Jacqueline Thomas, who resigned last month to pursue other interests. Donovan will start her new position Jan. 21.

Donovan, 53, will be assisted by Jean Thompson, a 14-year veteran of The Sun who was named to the position of co-associate editor yesterday. Thompson, a former assistant managing editor for staff development, has just returned from a one-year leave of absence. Stephen E. Henderson, who won the ASNE distinguished writing award last year, will remain as co-associate editor.

In Chicago, Donovan took on "the kind of issues that are most critical to Baltimore - child welfare, education and criminal justice. The kind of issues that make or break a city," said Bruce Dold, editorial page editor of the Tribune.

In Baltimore, Donovan will be responsible for shaping the newspaper's editorial voice.

"I am very excited and very much looking forward to it," she said.

"For me, it's a challenge and an opportunity. The editorial page and editorial board has always represented the soul of the newspaper to me. That's where I wanted to be when I came to newspapering, and that's certainly where my journalistic heart is.

"It's a job that I am going to have a lot of fun with."

Michael E. Waller, publisher and chief executive of the Baltimore Sun Co., which, like the Chicago Tribune is owned by the Tribune Co., described Donovan as an "outstanding, elegant and persuasive writer."

"We're just delighted to have her," said Waller, who said he selected Donovan from a list of candidates suggested to him by associates outside The Sun.

"She's a terrific writer with a lot of experience in editorial pages. ... We've got the last two winners of the ASNE editorial writing award. I don't know of any other paper that can say that about their editorial page."

Donovan, who will report to Waller, was expected to fly to Baltimore last night and meet with her staff today. She said she will spend much of the time familiarizing herself with the writers and their expertise, as well as issues important to the region and the city.

She said immediate changes should not be expected because, "At this point, I would be hesitant to map out an agenda for the board because I've ... been reading the papers only for the last month."

In the past 4 1/2 years under Thomas, The Sun's op-ed page focused mostly on local, community-oriented topics and, more specifically, criticizing Baltimore's criminal justice system and the city's high number of homicides.

Dold, the Tribune's editorial page editor, praised Donovan for playing a significant role in pushing for criminal justice reform, particularly in the juvenile courts, in Chicago. Dold also said Donovan was integral in pushing for Chicago school reform.

"I think Dianne is going to be absolutely terrific in this job," said Dold, who began working with Donovan 10 years ago when he was an editorial writer.

"I think she knows that a newspaper provides something you don't get from radio and TV. It provides a dialogue with readers. It gets a debate going and leads the discussion."

After spending the past month reading The Sun, Donovan said other issues facing Baltimore include juvenile justice, land-use planning and gentrification. More specific issues such as fisheries, watermen and crabbing limits are of interest regionally, she added.

"I've always been a strong supporter of early intervention for at-risk children," Donovan said. "I would hope to take that on, but I wouldn't say at this point that those are definitely areas I'll be dealing with in Baltimore."

A native of Houston, Donovan graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., where she was also editor of the school newspaper. She went on to earn master's degrees from the University of Missouri in journalism and the University of Chicago in English language and literature.

After landing her first newspaper job at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1977 as a copy editor, Donovan joined the Chicago Tribune two years later. She has held various positions there including literary editor for seven years, Sunday perspective editor, and assistant editor for news and features.

She also spent two years as a visiting professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism in the mid-1980s.

Before being appointed recruitment editor for the Tribune in 2000, Donovan spent seven years as a member of the newspaper's editorial board, first as op-ed page editor and later as a writer who specialized in social issues, education and the politics of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Said Thompson, who met Donovan through their recruitment efforts for their papers, "She's smart. She's warm. She's strong and very well-read. I'm looking forward to working with her. She's got fabulous credentials. I believe she'll bring to The Sun very high standards for editorials and for journalism."

A self-described political moderate and avid reader, Donovan lives in Evanston, Ill., with her husband, Tony Burba. They have two sons.

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