Choosing Trenton  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   March 1996

Choosing Trenton   

By Alicia C. Shepard
Alicia C. Shepard is a former AJR senior writer and NPR ombudsman.     


In these uncertain times in the newspaper world, when editors are just as likely to receive pink slips as paychecks, longtime veteran Fran Dauth is to be envied.

Dauth, former associate managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer , recently found herself in the position of choosing from among six potential job offers at papers around the country – including a promotion to night managing editor at the Inquirer.

"I sort of felt like a poster child for middle age," says Dauth, 54. "You can get another job if you are middle-aged and if you have something to offer. I felt quite good about it."

Dauth turned down inquiries and offers from the New York Times , San Francisco Chronicle , San Francisco Examiner and Austin American-States-man , as well as the offer that would have kept her at the Inquirer, in favor of joining Newhouse Newspapers.

She's now chief of the Newark Star-Ledger 's Trenton bureau, where she'll supervise eight people. At the Inquirer, she was in charge of a 200-person staff, but the prospect of less clout and responsibility doesn't faze her.

"While the job may not have as much status, it sounds like a lot of fun," says Dauth. She says her desire to continue living in Philadelphia, as well as her friendship with Star-Ledger Editor Jim Willse , who worked with her on the San Francisco Examiner city desk during the late 1970s, contributed to her decision.

Another factor was her desire to get back to journalism basics. Dauth says that during her last year at the Inquirer she had been handling budgets, personnel matters and labor problems – "everything but stories."

Dauth joins about 20 other Inquirer staffers in accepting buyouts. She admits to some sadness about leaving the paper after 14 years. But with the Inquirer in a cost-cutting phase, she decided it was time to go. "I felt I couldn't in good conscience be as enthusiastic as I ought to be about the future at the Inquirer," she says. "Everybody knows the corner grumps in the newsroom and I didn't want to do that."

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