Ledger-Enquirer Executive Editor Joe Kieta is headed to California to take the helm of The Modesto Bee newsroom starting in mid-April. He also will serve as senior vice president at the newspaper.
Ledger-Enquirer President and Publisher Rodney Mahone made the announcement Tuesday to nearly two dozen newsroom staffers in Columbus.
“It’s bittersweet to say the least,” he said. “Joe has just done a fantastic job. He has changed the culture and has helped us embrace our future in making sure that we are relevant online, with mobile and in print.”
Kieta, who has been editor of the Columbus daily newspaper since August 2010, was in Modesto Tuesday, where a simultaneous announcement was made to staffers there.
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“It’s a real emotional day for me,” he said via telephone. “I’m sad to leave Columbus, because just in the short time that I’ve lived there I’ve really grown to love the city and the region. And we’ve been welcomed like family there. So it’s hard to say goodbye.”
On the other hand, Kieta said, it’s a “great opportunity” to run a larger newspaper in an area that he and his family know well. His wife, Sandra, is from Merced, Calif., about 40 miles from Modesto, and her entire family lives there.
“It’s a bigger paper, a bigger operation. I understand the lay of the land here because I spent so much time here,” said Kieta, who served as editor of the Merced Sun-Star from 2001-2008. “I worked closely with everybody here in the past, so it’s not something that I’m foreign to or anything.”
The search for a new Ledger-Enquirer executive editor will begin immediately, Mahone said, with internal and external candidates being considered. The hope is to fill the position within six to eight weeks, he said. Managing editor Dimon Kendrick-Holmes will oversee the newsroom after Kieta’s departure.
The Modesto Bee and the Ledger-Enquirer are part of The McClatchy Company newspaper chain. The Bee has a circulation of more than 60,000 daily and 80,000 on Sundays, about double that of the Ledger-Enquirer.
Read more in Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer.