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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   December 2001  issue

A Better Offer   

David B. Offer, who resigned as editor of Stars & Stripes after being ordered to kill a story, lands a job as executive editor of two community newspapers in Maine.

By Hanah Cho

A year after resigning in protest from Stars & Stripes, David B. Offer finds the perfect fit as executive editor of two community newspapers in Maine.

Offer, 60, succeeds Soren Nielsen, who retired in July from Augusta's Kennebec Journal and Waterville's Morning Sentinel.

"I'm very excited because I missed being in the newsroom," Offer says. "And because they are good newspapers I'm working with, and they want to get better. I think it's an ideal circumstance for any editor."

In September 2000, Offer quit as executive editor of Stars & Stripes after being ordered to kill a story that revealed the Pentagon might deploy an Army Patriot antimissile unit to Israel. The Washington Post published the same details on the day the piece was slated to run in the military newspaper.

"There was no honorable choice but to resign," Offer says. "I could not be part of a newspaper that claimed to be independent but that allowed itself to be censored."

Offer and his wife remained in Virginia (in the house they closed on the day before he resigned) while he looked for the right job. He declined several opportunities until the chance to lead the Blethen family-owned Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel came along.

John Christie, president of Central Maine Newspapers, which publishes the two dailies, says Offer had exactly what he was looking for: a track record of improving a small newspaper and knowledge of New England. Christie says Offer's resignation also influenced his decision. "His action at Stars & Stripes confirmed for me that he was a person of high integrity."

Offer began his career as a reporter at Washington state's Wenatchee World in 1965. After reporting for the Hartford Courant and the Milwaukee Journal, he became managing editor of Wisconsin's LaCrosse Tribune and then editor of Rhode Island's Newport Daily News, which won numerous awards during his tenure.

Back at Stars & Stripes, a reorganization puts former Ombudsman David Mazzarella in a newly created top editorial position.

As editorial director, Mazzarella oversees the paper's news operations worldwide while Executive Editor Bill Walker, who had held the top position, handles administrative and communications tasks associated with war coverage.

Publisher Thomas Kelsch says he wanted to employ all available resources to cover the war on terrorism.

Mazzarella, 63, a former editor of USA Today and AP foreign correspondent, became ombudsman at Stars & Stripes in April 2000.

Walker, who took a brief leave of absence after the announcement, began working on a project in Germany in early November, Kelsch says. Walker could not be reached for comment.