AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   February/March 2005

The Player-Coach   

Everett J. Mitchell II takes the helm at the Tennessean.

By Dorcas Taylor
Taylor is a former AJR editorial assistant.     

Running newspapers comes naturally to Everett J. Mitchell II. At his Louisville high school, he became managing editor of the paper, the Paw Print, in just his second year on staff. At the University of Kentucky, he was editor of an African American newspaper, the Communicator.

So it was only fitting that Mitchell, 42, left his managing editor's post at the Detroit News in December to become editor and vice president/news of the Tennessean in Nashville.

Mitchell, or "E.J.," as he's known to colleagues, wowed the paper's senior staff with his enthusiasm. "His passion is contagious," says Tennessean President and Publisher Leslie Giallombardo, who also appreciated Mitchell's experience in investigative reporting and watchdog journalism.

Mitchell plans to encourage what he calls "revelatory journalism" by exploring major community issues like health insurance for the poor, local school funding and Nashville's music industry. He believes journalists should tell the public why things are happening to "help them make change if change is needed."

Mitchell is the daily's first African American editor but not the first among Gannett's southern papers. He praises colleagues in Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi as trailblazers.

Showcasing the "rich diversity of the community in every way imaginable" is the Tennessean's responsibility, Mitchell says, adding he wants readers to see themselves reflected in the 180,000-circulation paper.

Mitchell was managing editor of Gannett's Detroit News for four years. He started there as a police reporter in 1989 and later became deputy city editor. After management jobs at the Cincinnati Enquirer and other Gannett papers in Oregon and Delaware, he returned to Detroit in 2000.

Detroit News Publisher and Editor Mark Silverman calls Mitchell a "really savvy guy" who's adept at developing good writers, showcasing reporters' strengths and understanding the community. "He gets excited by the good news story, about writing and about getting his hands around issues" that inspire people to take action, Silverman says.

Mitchell describes himself as a hands-on manager. "I expect to be a player-coach," he says. "I don't just stand on the sidelines. I get in and play."