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The publisher and editor leading The Oklahoman since 2003 are both leaving, paving the way for new Publisher Christopher Reen this fall.

Clifton Adcock June 29th, 2011

Big changes are happening in Oklahoma City media, as both the publisher and editor of The Oklahoman, the largest newspaper in the state, announced they were leaving the publication.

Ed Kelley, who has been the paper’s editor since 2003 and worked at the paper for more than 35 years, announced June 10 that he would be leaving to become editor at The Washington Times. Kelly Dyer Fry will become editor of The Oklahoman and serve as vice president of news for OPUBCO.

About 10 days after the Kelley announcement, The Oklahoman publisher and OPUBCO President David Thompson announced he would be retiring on Sept. 1. OPUBCO executive vice president Christopher Reen, 43, will replace Thompson, who was named as publisher in 2003.

Both Kelley and Thompson were named to their respective posts by Edward L. Gaylord in 2003, when the longtime editor and publisher of the paper stepped down. It was the first time the paper did not have a member of the Gaylord family as publisher and editor in 85 years.

Gaylord inherited the paper from his father, Edward K. Gaylord. The younger Gaylord, who was known for his right-leaning views often expressed in the paper, died at age 83 shortly after naming Kelley and Thompson to head the paper.

Since then, the newspaper has invested heavily in its online operations, as well giving the physical copy of the paper a new look.

Like many media companies affected by the economic downturn, the paper implemented changes. In 2008, OPUBCO made offers for early retirement to 102 employees, followed by 155 employees being laid off. Then, in May 2010, 57 employees were laid off, followed by an announcement in January of this year that 46 employees were being laid off, reducing the total number of employees from around 1,100 prior to 2008 to about 690.

In an interview with Oklahoma Gazette, Thompson said he has been planning to retire for some time now.

“Certainly, these are two big announcements,” Thompson said. “I will tell you that they are purely coincidental.”

Thompson said Kelley, a former Washington, D.C., bureau chief for The Oklahoman, has always wanted to edit a newspaper in the nation’s capital, and coupled with the fact that his sons live there, it seems like a good fit for the editor.

“We’re very happy with Ed. Both Ed and (his wife) Carole will have an opportunity to be with their boys and their boys’ wives, and really, for the first time in their adult lives, to be together.”

Reen said a decision was made to put a little time between the two announcements.

“We talked about putting a little bit of air between the two announcements,” Reen said. “What we wanted to do was have a transitionary period. Had we put any more distance between the two, that transitionary period would have been shortened.”

Thompson, who turns 60 in August, said he and his wife had set a goal for him to retire at age 60, and he wants to achieve that.

“We’re going to make that a reality, and we look forward to it,” Thompson said. “We leave this company with great pride in that we’ve got a great leadership team in place, and you’re going to see wonderful things happen through the leadership of Chris Reen.”

After a bit of traveling, Thompson said he plans to return to Oklahoma City, where he and his wife will remain active civically. Thompson, who was named to The Associated Press Board of Directors in April, said he did not know how long he would remain involved with trade organizations.

“This is home; this is where our children and grandchildren are. Oklahoma City will always be home to us,” Thompson said. “I don’t know (that) I can tell you what length of time we’ll stay involved in (the AP board). We do not have any plans to stay active in the industry.”

Meanwhile, Reen said he is busy looking for ways to continue the evolution of The Oklahoman business model, while taking a listening tour of sorts with employees and the community.

“I’m fortunate to work with a great team here,” Reen said. “While I’m not prepared to announce any major changes right now, what I am going be doing over next weeks and months is doing a lot of listening to our employees and community.”

 
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