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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

N&O's public editor to become DOT flack

Posted by on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 12:47 PM

After 32 years as a journalist, editor and publisher at The News & Observer, Ted Vaden is leaving for a public relations job at the Department of Transportation.

We wish Vaden well. After all the anxiety over layoffs at the paper, the new opportunity (and $117,000 annual salary) must be irresistible. The work public information officers do can be quite valuable.

But what does it say about the state of journalism that the guy whose job is to "[monitor] N&O coverage for fairness and accuracy and [serve] as a readers' representative at the paper" will now be in charge of spinning for one of the most egregiously mismanaged and obfuscating agencies of state government?

N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III, to whom Vaden reports, told the Indy he doesn't yet know if he will hire a replacement. Under pressure due to parent company McClatchy's falling profits, Quarles recently announced there will be more staff cuts coming.

The N&O quotes Vaden saying he has faith in Transportation Secretary Gene Conti's promise to clean things up.

"DOT is an agency that has had its problems, and I see it as an interesting challenge to take on the communication function in addressing those problems," said Vaden, 61. "[Conti] has made it very clear he wants the department to be more open to the public, more accessible."

We hope Conti does so.

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