Columbus Ledger-Enquirer publisher Rodney Mahone will be leaving his hometown to become president and publisher of The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, as well as four newspapers in South Carolina — The State in Columbia, The Herald in Rock Hill, and The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette in Hilton Head — McClatchy announced Wednesday afternoon.
The company also announced that Columbus native Ross McDuffie will be promoted to General Manager/Vice President of Advertising for Georgia, overseeing operations at the Ledger-Enquirer and Macon Telegraph.
Both men will start their new roles at the beginning of June. The opportunity in the Carolinas was presented to Mahone less than two weeks ago, he said.
Mahone, who most recently has been in charge of McClatchy’s Georgia Group, which includes Columbus and Macon, has been with the Ledger-Enquirer for more than 28 years, working his way up from the circulation department.
Mahone, 51, a graduate of Kendrick High School, said the decision to leave home for the Carolinas was difficult.
“My roots are here, which means that in some ways I’ll never leave,” he said. “It’s the place that raised me and shaped me and will always have a special place in my heart. That makes it inherently difficult to decide to leave. But I’m excited about the opportunity, and I know that I’ll take a bit of the Chattahoochee Valley and its values to the Carolinas.”
Mahone succeeds Ann Caulkins, who is stepping down after 12 years as publisher of The Charlotte Observer and almost 35 years at McClatchy and its predecessor companies.
“Rodney is a strong and creative leader who has driven innovation and digital transformation in challenging times for local journalism,” said Sara Glines, publisher of McClatchy’s Carolina region. “He is also a catalyst, someone who has thoughtfully combined his entrepreneurial vision, energy and deep commitment to our communities to launch new initiatives and collaborations that have brought together diverse stakeholders and improved lives. The experience and insight he brings will make a significant impact on our business and communities.”
Mahone said he will spend his initial time in the Carolinas working to understand the operation.
“I am excited and honored to lead The Charlotte Observer and continue its strong tradition of local journalism and service to the community,” Mahone said. “I will have big shoes to fill with Ann Caulkins’ departure. Her leadership and vision has been a beacon to me and all of my colleagues across McClatchy. Although Georgia will always be in my heart, I look forward to collaborating with our teams and partners in Charlotte, Columbia, Rock Hill and Hilton Head to continue to produce local journalism that is essential to the communities and business partners we serve.”
He leaves Columbus with a lengthy list of accomplishments.
He was instrumental in the launch of Together Columbus, an innovative two-year public-private partnership that resulted in a $344,000 investment in the community. As a result of his leadership of this initiative, the Ledger-Enquirer was recognized by Editor & Publisher Magazine as one of the 10 newspapers in the United States “That Do It Right.”
“I’m so proud of how this team has innovated and risen to challenges, helped find solutions and build community in this tremendous place, whether it’s the stories we’ve covered, the businesses we’ve helped grow, the readers we’ve informed or projects we’ve led on, such as Together Columbus,” Mahone said.
He was also active as a community leader locally.
Mahone is a 2012 alumni of Leadership Georgia, served on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus and the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation, and chaired the Board of Directors for United Way and New Birth Outreach Church. He also chaired the local United Way Campaign in 2012. Currently, he serves on the boards of the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, United Way and Columbus Technical College Foundation.
Like Mahone, McDuffie has deep Columbus roots. He is a 2003 graduate of Columbus High School and a 2007 Berry College graduate with a degree in communications.
McDuffie, 33, joined McClatchy in 2010 as a member of the Ledger-Enquirer advertising sales team. He was promoted several times over the past eight years and was named regional vice president/advertising for McClatchy’s Georgia markets with oversight of Columbus, Macon and excelerateTM Atlanta in 2017.
“I’ve been surrounded by great leadership throughout my career at McClatchy, and Rodney Mahone has been a great mentor to me every step of the way,” McDuffie said. “I step into this role with a sense of pride to carry on what Rodney started: a commitment to quality local journalism exercised with fierce independence and a passion for the innovation that allows us to remain essential to our communities and our advertisers.”
McDuffie is ready for the increased responsibility and role with the Georgia newspapers and McClatchy, Mahone said.
“Ross is a talented and compassionate leader,” Mahone said. “I’m grateful to have had the privilege to work together and learn from each other. He will serve his hometown well. I look forward to watching the success I know is ahead for Ross and the team.”
Most recently, McDuffie was named to Editor & Publisher’s “25 under 35” list in recognition of his career achievements. He is also the recipient of two Emmy nominations for his work in interactive media.
“Ross’ tenure at McClatchy has been marked with consistently strong growth in digital advertising revenue, the creation of an agency-culture in McClatchy’s Georgia markets and a fierce commitment to supporting quality local journalism,” said Alexandra Villoch, president and publisher of Miami Herald Media Company and McClatchy East region publisher. “His energy and vision will drive our continued success and leadership in the state.”
Since McDuffie joined the Ledger-Enquirer and McClatchy, the newspaper and media industry has been engulfed in a sea of change.
“I think that I have been fortunate that the entire time I have been at McClatchy that I have been standing next to a tremendous leader in Rodney,” McDuffie said. “I have been standing next to someone who is focused on transformation. When you do that, you learn how to manage and lead through change. You learn how to motivate through change because change by its nature is disruptive. I have learned you can turn that change and disruption into growth.”
McClatchy operates 30 media companies in 14 states, providing each of its communities with high-quality news and advertising services in a wide array of digital and print formats. In addition to the Charlotte Observer, McClatchy’s iconic brands include the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The (Raleigh) News & Observer, and the (Fort Worth) Star-Telegram.