Foley: 'I will spend more time with my family. This may be the first time in your career that you can truly believe this statement from a source who is resigning.'
Ellen Foley, hired as editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in April 2004 to "sharpen the edges" of the state's second largest newspaper, resigned today, effective Friday.
Foley's resignation is the latest sign of tumult at Capital Newspapers Inc., which owns and publishes the State Journal and The Capital Times. The State Journal is also one of the flagship newspapers of Lee Enterprises, a newspaper company whose stock has plummeted in recent months.
"I have loved every minute of my life as a journalist and I love every one of you," Foley wrote in an e-mail message to staffers today. "Being editor of the State Journal was my dream job."
Rumors of additional job cuts have been swirling among State Journal staffers. Advertising revenue in the newspaper industry, in decline for several quarters, is expected to drop further because of the broader downturns in the economy.
Foley, a quirky newspaperperson, was an optimistic cheerleader for the State Journal, arriving in the newsroom to shake things up after the long tenure of Frank Denton. She had previously been the managing editor of the Philadelphia Daily News.
In an Isthmus cover story two years ago, Foley said, "People here were very hungry for change, and they felt the paper had become a little sleepy. Lots of people were doing really good work, but the edges were a little dull, and we needed to sharpen them."
Foley, 56, ousted some longtime staffers and moved others to new positions. But largely, her tenure was marked by the shrinking of the newspaper. The downsizing, in both the news hole and in staff, ripped morale, and several complained of a feeling of impending doom. Many have also marveled at the newspaper's absence of news. Not that this was entirely Foley's fault.
Foley tried hard to lighten up the paper in an effort to attract readers with busy lives. She readily acknowledged the uncertainties of the future of newspapers, telling Isthmus two years ago, "This is a time of exciting change. I think newspapers will be around for another 20 years, but they'll get smaller and smaller. But journalism as a craft is going to sustain itself. The format, though, may be something wildly different than what we're used to do today. And I'm open to that."
State Journal staffers were scheduled to meet tonight with the newspaper's publishers to hear about "next steps" and get their questions answered.
Foley, meanwhile, told her staff via e-mail:
"I will spend more time with my family. This may be the first time in your career that you can truly believe this statement from a source who is resigning. [Foley's husband Tom has been battling cancer, a struggle she's bravely chronicled on CaringBridge.org.]
"I will work in the next year to get a deeper perspective on our industry and on my contribution to the community. I hope to stay in Madison, a magical place.
"I have a book project that needs a publisher, a class I want to teach, two daughters with whom I need to reconnect and a wonderful husband who needs my continued support.
"I am optimistic about the future of journalism and Capital Newspapers. We may be smaller but no one will ever be able to replace the excellent journalism that you produce every day."