Gannett has hired Carol Hunter as the Des Moines Register's new executive editor, the newspaper announced yesterday.
In her 12 years at the Register, Hunter has served as editorial page editor, politics editor and news director. She has helped lead the Register’s nationally recognized coverage of the Iowa caucuses through three election cycles and has spearheaded public service projects including “Iowa Kids” and “Black Iowa: Still Unequal?”
[Former executive editor Amalie] Nash announced Hunter's promotion to the Register newsroom Tuesday morning, noting that several staff members had lobbied for her.
"After conducting a national search it was very obvious that, yes, in fact, we had the perfect person to take on that role," Nash said.
I'm encouraged by the choice. Instead of bringing in someone who would have a huge learning curve and would probably move on after a few years, the Register chose an editor who is already deeply immersed in Iowa politics. Strong support from the newsroom is a plus, since Gannett has done plenty to destroy morale among reporters at its media properties over the last decade.
Hunter has been the Register's acting executive editor since August, when Gannett announced Nash's promotion. She will also now serve as "regional editor for seven other news organizations in Gannett’s Plains region." Annah Backstrom moves up to Hunter's former news director role, having served as the paper's "politics strategist" during the last two election cycles.
Political columnist Kathie Obradovich praised Hunter yesterday as "an experienced newsroom leader who knows Iowa and understands the need for serious watchdog journalism." Here's hoping the Register will put more resources into investigative reporting. Heaven knows there will be no shortage of scandals to reveal as Medicaid privatization continues to unfold, and Republicans use full control of the state legislature and governor's office to further unravel public services.
One area of concern for me: as far as I can tell, the Register never put someone new on the politics beat after promoting Jason Noble to the position of chief politics reporter in May. Big changes are coming to state government during the next year. Iowa's largest newspaper should have at least as large a team assigned to cover those stories as it did in 2013 and 2015.
Hunter said yesterday, "My goal is to build on the Register’s strengths, from investigative and political reporting to commentary to college sports coverage, and to deliver that content with innovative digital storytelling." I'm not sure what Hunter has in mind by "innovative digital storytelling." Extra clips from interviews add value to the Register's content. Auto-play videos of a reporter summarizing a news story or toplines from an opinion poll don't. Most news consumers "are resistant to watching video because it is faster to read an article, and because of the ads that often precede videos."