Zeeck's departure is the latest in a series of recent newsroom management changes by McClatchy amid a slump in its stock price.
The McClatchy Co., owner of The News Tribune in Tacoma, announced Tuesday that the paper’s publisher and former executive editor, David Zeeck, is leaving after 24 years.
The announcement didn’t give a reason for Zeeck’s departure, but comes after shakeups for McClatchy’s papers in Western Washington, including rounds of layoffs, the decision to outsource printing, and consolidation of management, design and copy editing.
“It’s time for someone else to take over and to finish the transition to a digital media future,” a News Tribune article published Tuesday quoted Zeeck as saying.
McClatchy’s digital-focus strategy for the Tacoma newspaper doesn’t appear to have paid off yet. While there are more than 300,000 households in Pierce County, according to the most recent Census data, The News Tribune has only slightly more than 5,000 digital subscribers, Zeeck said on Dec. 3.
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Zeeck’s departure is the latest in a series of recent newsroom management changes by McClatchy that have impacted several of its newspapers. The decision comes two weeks after The News Tribune announced it was shutting down its printing press after 45 years in operation, which resulted in layoffs for 67 employees. The News Tribune and The Olympian will be printed at The Columbian in Vancouver.
McClatchy’s decisions also come in the midst of a slump in its stock price, which has lost nearly 18 percent of its value in the past six months, compared to a 5 percent decline for the S&P 500 index over the same period. Gannett shares, by contrast, have seen just a 2.4 percent drop.
McClatchy’s west regional publisher, Gary Wortel, said the company has focused on “regionalized” production of its publications to cut costs, but will continue to focus on local journalism at all three Washington papers. He declined to comment on how shareholders have responded to shakeups considering the company’s declining value.
“We’re not unlike any other large company in any industry,” Wortel said. “We’re taking a look at the size and scope to create synergies and cost efficiency.”
Rebecca Poynter, McClatchy’s vice president of local sales for the west region and publisher for The Idaho Statesman, will replace Zeeck while maintaining her current role. She will also take over as publisher of the company’s other newspapers in Western Washington, The Bellingham Herald and The Olympian, and will live and work in Tacoma, Wortel said.
Prior to the Statesman, Poynter was the president of Gannett Mid-Michigan.
In a similar move last month, McClatchy named Tim Ritchey as publisher of The Fresno Bee, Merced Sun-Star and The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. Ritchey took on the roles in addition to his current duties as an advertising executive with the company and publisher of The Modesto Bee. McClatchy executives said the change would contribute to the papers’ “digital transformation.”
McClatchy has laid off journalists across the county, including The News Tribune, in the past few years. The company announced 29 newsroom job cuts at its papers in the West in April, according to the Sacramento Business Journal. In August, 3.5 percent of positions were cut. The company recently announced it would consolidate design and copy editing for its 30 newspapers spanning the country to Charlotte, North Carolina because of declining ad revenue.
Wortel said he is not aware of any upcoming layoffs at The News Tribune and that the company has communicated with reporters before making external announcements.
Zeeck was executive editor of The News Tribune for 14 years before being named publisher, according to The News Tribune. Last year, McClatchy announced that he would assume oversight responsibility of The Bellingham Herald in addition to his roles as the president and publisher of The News Tribune and The Olympian.