Star Tribune Editor-in-Chief Rene Sanchez resigns to become editor of his hometown New Orleans newspaper.
Suki Dardarian, deputy newsroom, will succeed him as editor and senior vice president of the Star Tribune.
Sanchez has held the top post on Minnesota’s largest newsroom for the past eight years, leading the paper to a 2021 Pulitzer Prize.
“It’s hard to leave such a dedicated, talented editorial team,” Sanchez said. “We’ve been through a lot together and I’m especially grateful for the heroic work of the entire staff over the past two years.
“But after nearly nine years in this role, it feels like the right time to take on a new challenge. The opportunity in my home state is very attractive. And Suki will be a really great successor.”
Dardarian, who joined the Star Tribune as senior editor in 2014, helped run the paper during a period of relative internal stability under the ownership of Minnesota businessman Glen Taylor.
She has played a pivotal role in reporting for the newspaper and supporting its 230 journalists over the past two tumultuous years in Minneapolis and the surrounding communities.
“The Star Tribune has changed since the day I walked in the door and it will stay that way, I guarantee it,” Dardarian said. “We want to serve this whole community, we want to include people in a way that they can connect and help improve this community.”
Mike Klingensmith, Star Tribune publisher and CEO, said he expects a smooth leadership transition to take place over the next two months. The Company will immediately begin a nationwide search to fill Dardarian’s vacancy.
“Choosing Suki was one of the easiest HR decisions I’ve made since joining the Star Tribune. She is perfectly ready for this task. She’s very experienced,” said Klingensmith. “Her news judgment is impeccable, but her creativity and energy are infectious.”
Sanchez returns to his hometown of New Orleans, where he becomes Vice President of News and Editor-in-Chief of Times-Picayune/the Advocate/Nola.com. His parents, sister and entire extended family still live in Louisiana. Sanchez’s daughter, who grew up in Minnesota, is a sophomore at Tulane University in New Orleans.
He spent much of his early career as a journalist with the Washington Post, holding reporting positions in Washington, DC and Los Angeles. Sanchez has spent the last 17 years at the Star Tribune, where he quickly rose through the ranks.
During his tenure, the Star Tribune redoubled its commitment to local, public service journalism.
“Local journalism doesn’t have to mean community journalism,” Sanchez said. “Everything we cover is a lens into national life.”
He spurred reporters to bring readers quality stories that couldn’t or wouldn’t be delivered elsewhere.
“What a pleasure to work with Rene,” said Klingensmith. “I’ve worked with many editors in my magazine career, and I’ve never worked with a better one.”
Even before the Louisiana newspaper called, Sanchez said he was thinking about how leadership change can be healthy for an organization and the leaders themselves.
“Stepping back, having some humility, appreciating what you’ve done,” Sanchez said, “and also realizing that it can be really invigorating — not just for you to have a new challenge — but for a newsroom, to get a new jolt, have a different perspective.”
He added, “It wasn’t like I really wanted to go, but it felt like a good time to be here in ninth year to know someone who could fill in as good as Suki.”
The newspaper industry has faced immense challenges over the past two decades as the consumption of news and information has rapidly evolved. Small and medium-sized newspapers have been hurt the most as readers flock to free, digital sources of information and entertainment.
Klingensmith and Sanchez resisted the urge of many industry peers to abandon their print products in favor of a fully digital approach. Sanchez consistently urged the newsroom to publish meaningful, well-reported, and carefully written articles.
As a result, the Star Tribune has a far more robust physical newspaper than outlets of a similar size, and is now the third-largest daily newspaper in the United States by circulation.
The newspaper’s leadership has also sought to balance print stabilization with its long-term future, which is digital.
Dardarian, who had a distinguished 14-year career at the Seattle Times before joining the Star Tribune, has spearheaded the paper’s digital evolution, which today has more than 100,000 digital subscribers. She has led the company’s strategy to refocus on local news and public service journalism, with a heavy focus on digital storytelling to grow the newspaper’s online audience.
“The transformation to a converged multiplatform newsroom will definitely continue, it has to be,” Dardarian said. “We’re doing a phenomenal job in print and we’re doing a phenomenal job in digital, but we need to get even better at choreography. And I think our journalism will get better if we do that.”
Dardarian began her career as a reporter in Everett, Wash. and Tacoma, Wash. before climbing the editorial ladder at the Seattle newspaper. These experiences, and those she had in Minnesota, have strengthened her commitment to freedom of the press, open government, and local news that covers the entire community.