Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, a newspaper veteran and someone with very deep roots in the local community, has been named vice president and executive editor of the Ledger-Enquirer.
President and Publisher Rodney Mahone made the announcement to a group of the newspaper’s employees Thursday afternoon, saying Kendrick-Holmes “emerged as the clear top candidate among an exceptionally deep and talented pool of applicants.”
Kendrick-Holmes, 44, who has been with the Ledger-Enquirer more than a decade, rises from managing editor to the helm of a 30-person newsroom responsible for covering the Columbus-Phenix City-Fort Benning area. The metro area has a population of nearly 300,000.
He succeeds Joe Kieta, who departed in mid-April to become editor of The Modesto Bee in California, where he also has family. Both the Ledger-Enquirer, which has 91 total staffers, and the Bee are part of The McClatchy Company newspaper chain.
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“As managing editor, Dimon’s been instrumental in leading the charge in the newsroom to its recent successes,” said Mahone. “He played a key role in the creation of two breaking news reporting positions that added more than five hours of continuous coverage to www.ledger-enquirer.com, which makes us the leader in this community for online news.
“Last year, he spearheaded the creation of new content for the print newspaper’s redesign, including profiles, Q&As and popular features like ‘The Inquirer.’ That has added more voices to the paper, more pictures of community folks and made us more local and more relevant. And that’s something that I hear everywhere I go.”
Mahone also noted Kendrick-Holmes has helped set the standard for Georgia newspapers by leading the newsroom to state Freedom of Information awards over the last four years.
Kendrick-Holmes grew up in nearby LaFayette, Ala., in rural Chambers County, but also has deep ties to Columbus, as does Mahone, who was raised in here and graduated from Kendrick High School.
The new executive editor’s great-grandfathers both have places in the city’s history. Joseph Homer Dimon was mayor of Columbus from 1922 to 1931 and for a year in 1935. His name graces Dimon Elementary School. Kendrick High is named for T.C. Kendrick, who served for years as principal at Columbus High School.
“It means a lot to be the editor in your hometown,” said Kendrick-Holmes, the first in-house editor candidate to take the post since Jack Swift in the late 1980s. “Most people have to move away for that. But this is where I want to be and this is where I want to work with all the talented journalists that we have in our newsroom. I want to work on problems in our community and help solve those, and help make a difference here.”
A former U.S. Army intelligence officer, Kendrick-Holmes has steadily worked his way up the ranks of the Ledger-Enquirer since arriving in 2001. He’s held the positions of features editor, metro editor, senior editor in charge of projects and planning, and managing editor starting in January 2011.
Prior to the Ledger-Enquirer, he was features/entertainment editor and then city editor at the Leaf-Chronicle in Clarksville, Tenn. He started in journalism as a reporter at the Daily-Citizen News in Dalton, Ga. He holds an undergraduate English degree from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in English from the University of Georgia.
Retired Ledger-Enquirer editorial board editor Billy Winn on Thursday called Kendrick-Holmes’ promotion “the best thing that’s happened to the paper since I’ve been here.”
Winn pointed to the new editor’s lineage and devotion to the city, saying J. Homer Dimon was the best mayor Columbus ever had. That, paired with Mahone’s local ties and current editorial page editor Dusty Nix’s knowledge of the community, should lead to strong coverage.
“You’ve got three of the best people that you could have now in charge,” Winn said. “Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the community gives them an opportunity, gives them the time necessary, to develop a real first-rate newspaper. And I think that you can do it. Your manpower’s limited, but it’s been limited for a long time. Y’all still pull off good stuff. For the first time in a long time, I’m really optimistic.”
Kendrick-Holmes takes charge of the newspaper amid an industry struggle toward maintaining print circulation while growing its online audience and revenue.
Mahone on Thursday said the Ledger-Enquirer is on pace to make budget this year. On the Internet front, the number of unique visitors at www.ledger-enquirer.com is up 62 percent over last year. Unique visitors through smartphones, tablets and other devices are 14 percent higher, Mahone said, while digital revenue is growing by double digits. Much of that is through the use of social media, Mahone said.
“We are growing in an area that really, really matters,” the publisher said.