February 17, 2012

MaineToday Media names new top editor, promotes CFO

As executive editor, former Newsday journalist Cliff Schechtman aims to expand the paper's public service journalism.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

MaineToday Media announced Thursday that Managing Editor Cliff Schechtman has been promoted to executive editor of its newspapers and associated websites.

Schechtman was hired in October as managing editor of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He came from Newsday on Long Island in New York, where he was associate editor and oversaw a project that was named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

Before joining Newsday, Schecht- man worked throughout the Northeast, helping to run newspapers such as the Cape Cod Times.

His new job includes overseeing the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, as well as the Portland newspapers.

The company also announced Thursday that Pat Sweeney, who has been chief financial officer since May, has been promoted to the position of chief operating officer.

The changes are designed to facilitate the newspapers' transition to new technology and new methods of newsgathering and distribution, said interim Chief Executive Officer Neil Heyside.

Schechtman helped lead Newsday's efforts to become a source of breaking news online, and he will play a key role in MaineToday Media's growth strategy, Heyside said.

"The executive editor has to be able to not just determine the structure of the story ... he now has to know about how the story is deployed," Heyside said, referring to the evolving formats for news, from the Internet to smartphones to tablets.

Also, he said, there are unprecedented opportunities to augment stories, including video, social media and interactive websites.

Schechtman has the experience and leadership skills to motivate the staff to embrace the changes, he said.

Schechtman, 56, takes over for Scott Wasser, who had been executive editor since the company was acquired in June 2009 from the Seattle Times Co., and who hired Schechtman to oversee the newsroom. Wasser's departure was by mutual consent, the company said.

One week ago, MaineToday Media announced an infusion of cash from S. Donald Sussman, a wealthy financier who is one of Maine's leading philanthropists and political donors. Sussman's company, Maine Values LLC, agreed to lend MaineToday Media $3 million to $4 million in exchange for a stake in the company.

The changes were not directly related to the investment, Schechtman said Friday, but the loan created the stability for the company to make personnel changes.

"A community gets the newspaper it deserves, and I think this community deserves a probing, compelling newspaper that can at times be a positive force for change," he said.

At Newsday, Schechtman managed a much larger news organization, but he said his core values come from community journalism. Previously, he was managing editor of The Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and editor of the Cape Cod Times.

"I learned a lot at Newsday working with some superb journalists, and I hope to bring some of that here, to sharpen the journalism," he said.

One of the projects he led at Newsday analyzed safety problems in New York's commuter rail system that had contributed to numerous injuries. The 2007 series led to major safety upgrades and was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service journalism.

"For me, the highest calling is public service journalism," Schechtman said.

The company has not decided whether the position of managing editor will be filled.

MaineToday Media owns and operates the Press Herald/Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel and the Coastal Journal in Bath, as well as digital properties such as mainetoday.com, Maine Jobs and Raising Maine.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

 

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