The announcement that News Journal Executive Editor David Ledford plans to retire and move to Idaho came as no big surprise, given the steady stream of departures from Basin Road. Ledford received a gushing sendoff in a story today.
To his credit, the News Journal under Ledford, retained a commitment to investigative journalism, a key initiative for parent company Gannett as it steadily reduced resources.
Sadly, the scarce resources and flyover investigations hampered efforts at suggesting solutions, and in some situations reinforced suburbanites’ racial and economic stereotypes. Such was the case with some of the coverage of the urban woes of Wilmington.
Ledford did maintain relationships with elements of the business community, not always a strong point around Gannett.
He also does deserve credit for a brief renaissance at the NJ as younger reporters let in some fresh air into science, education, fine arts and other areas.
Sadly, the dismal economics of newspapers (and the cost-cutting culture of Gannett) led to a long line of departures that continues to this day.
Here’s an index of our News Journal coverage over the past five years or so. It’s a depressing list of stories.
While some of Ledford’s counterparts at Gannett stepped down rather than presiding over round after round of corporate-ordered staff cuts, Ledford stuck around and at least symbolically pulled the trigger for the Gannett overlords.
Some ex-staffers may not remember him fondly. On the other hand, businesspeople can understand what happens when circulation and revenue drop dramatically.
More recently, Ledford’s responsibilities included a downsized Delmarva Now (Daily Times). The melding led to The News Journal taking on a Delmarva-Salisbury flair, perhaps to the detriment of day to day coverage up north.
“There’s a lot of people in Delaware who are going to be happy to hear David Ledford is leaving,” stated Phil Freedman, news director of The News Journal in the departure piece. Friedman went on to praise Friedman’s focus on shining light on dark corners in the First State.
Freedman is right, but Ledford’s legacy also includes presiding over the decline of a once proud newspaper.
Meanwhile, keep that window open, take a walk and enjoy the day. The newsletter returns tomorrow. – Doug Rainey, publisher.
(Editor’s note: The author has worked as a reporter/editor in Delaware for nearly three decades, but never worked at the News Journal)