LITTLE ROCK Arkansas Democrat-Gazette executive editor Griffin Smith announced Monday that he is leaving the post effective Tuesday.
Smith, speaking to the newsroom, said there was no single factor in his resignation, adding he knew it was the "right time." In his address to several dozen employees in the paper's downtown headquarters, Smith thanked the staff and publisher Walter Hussman.
"It's been a tremendous privilege to work here with him and with all of you at this newspaper," he said.
Hussman said the paper will not hire a new executive editor for the "foreseeable future." Managing editor David Bailey will lead the newsroom.
Bailey, who called Smith "intellectually brilliant" and a good friend, indicated he didn't plan major changes in the day-to-day operations of the newsroom.
"It's a really wonderful institution," Bailey said. "It's a wonderful institution because it takes great pains to report very accurately and very carefully and to do so with authority and credibility. I don't think that's something you tamper with."
In an interview shortly after he spoke to employees, Smith said he began thinking about leaving in March and ultimately submitted his resignation to Hussman on Easter Sunday.
"The famous J.P. Morgan said every man has two reasons for what he does: the real one and the one that sounds good," Smith said. "My real reason is the one that sounds good: It's simply time to go."
Smith, who was named executive editor in June 1992, said he is most proud of the consistently good journalism that has produced "the kinds of stories we've had and the levels of coverage we've had." He also cited a 1997 project to reprint the 1957 front pages of the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette for the 40th anniversary of the Central High School desegregation.
"I lived through it and it was the most important event in certainly the state's 20th century history," Smith said. "For me personally, that's something I did or oversaw that matters a lot."
Smith said he chose to resign rather than retire because he didn't want to "cut [himself] out of the job market."
"I'll see what life brings," he said.
The announcement came as a surprise to a number of employees, including his wife, travel editor Libby Smith.
Griffin Smith said keeping secrets, even from his spouse, is a necessary part of the job.
"She's learning about this for the first time right now," he told the newsroom. "I love you dearly and I hope you're looking forward to becoming the chief bread winner in the Smith family. Life is full of surprises."
Hussman said the news of the departure came "completely out of the blue," adding he is sorry to see Smith go. He praised Smith's news judgment, ethics and values.
"Certainly one of the best decisions I ever made was picking Griffin to lead the newsroom up here and be our editor," Hussman said. "He's done an outstanding job."
Hussman also announced the end of a furlough program in which some employees had to take unpaid days off each pay period. He cited an evolving business model and new technology in expressing optimism for the days ahead.
"We're a little bit more confident about the future and where we're headed," Hussman said.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
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