Publisher of Sun to step down next week

Palmer, 49, accepts top post in Tampa

July 18, 2006|By NICK MADIGAN | NICK MADIGAN,SUN REPORTER

Denise E. Palmer, the publisher and chief executive officer of The Sun, will step down on July 28 after leading the paper for four years. She will become publisher of The Tampa Tribune on Aug. 21.

Palmer, 49, will be replaced temporarily by Bob Gremillion, a vice president for The Sun's parent, Chicago-based Tribune Co., and publisher of its South Florida Sun-Sentinel, until a permanent replacement is appointed.

"I wouldn't call it a shake-up," Palmer said yesterday. "This is me thinking about what I want to do" in the future. When she heard that The Tampa Tribune's publisher, Gil Thelen, planned to retire on June 30, Palmer contacted the paper and expressed interest in replacing him, she said.

Corporate pressure to trim costs at the Tribune Co.'s 11 daily newspapers did not play a role in her decision to leave, Palmer said.

News of Palmer's imminent departure comes less than a month after the announcement that Jack Davis, publisher and CEO of one of Tribune Co.'s Connecticut papers, The Hartford Courant, would be leaving that post. He is to be replaced by Stephen Carver, vice president and general manager of Atlanta's WATL-TV, which Tribune Co. sold last month to Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today.

"Although we're in a difficult place now, newspapers are going to figure out how to do it," Palmer said. "There's a lot of life left in newspapers. I wouldn't be going and taking another publisher's job if I didn't think these challenges can be overcome."

At the Tampa paper, she particularly is interested in the strong "multimedia synergy" between the newspaper, its Web site and the Tribune-owned TV station, NBC-affiliate WFLA, she said.

The challenges Palmer faced at The Sun included reducing costs and making the paper's production more efficient "in ways that don't hurt readers and advertisers," she said. Palmer said the company had "saved millions" in its Baltimore production facility last year by "condensing press runs into smaller windows of time."

In an e-mail sent to the staff yesterday, Palmer wrote that it had been a "great privilege" for her to lead The Sun. "Each of you cares deeply about The Sun and its readers, its advertisers and the community," she wrote. "You show that passion in all the great work you do every day."

Palmer joined Tribune Co. in 1980 as a corporate auditor and later served in various strategic planning and financial management roles for the parent company and The Chicago Tribune and WGN-Radio. Before her arrival in Baltimore, she was president of Chicagoland Television, a 24-hour local news cable channel.

Palmer has been responsible for publication of not only The Sun and baltimoresun.com but also The Baltimore Sun Community Newspapers, which include publications of Patuxent Publishing Company and The Aegis, Harford County's community newspaper.

During her tenure, The Sun underwent a redesign and added new sections including Health and Science; Game Day, which provides coverage of the National Football League; Varsity, which focuses on local high school sports; and Unisun, an African-American lifestyle magazine.

Palmer sits on a number of local committees and boards of directors, including those of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education and the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Gremillion, who has supervisory authority over The Sun, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Hartford Courant, issued a statement thanking Palmer for "her many accomplishments" at The Sun.

Gremillion said the process of selecting the paper's next publisher is under way. In the meantime, The Sun's editor, Timothy A. Franklin; the editorial page editor, Dianne Donovan; the public editor, Paul Moore; and the general manager, John Patinella, will report directly to Gremillion.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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