Announcing his intent to retire as editor and publisher of the Vineyard Gazette after more than 27 years at the newspaper, Richard Reston this week also named his successor.
Beginning in the middle of March, John W. Walter Jr., a former executive editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will arrive on the Island and take over the leadership role of the Gazette.
Mr. Walter, 56, was named editor and publisher of the Gazette and its other publications, Martha's Vineyard Magazine and the Best Read Guide, after a search process that began early last fall.
"I am delighted with the choice of John Walter, who I think will bring creative skills, energy and passion to the job," said Mr. Reston. "I believe he has the background necessary to keep the Gazette the distinguished community newspaper it has been for so long."
Mr. Walter was managing editor of the Journal-Constitution from 1989 to 2001 and then executive editor until the summer of last year.
Before taking the job in Atlanta, he was part of the team of editors who developed and launched USA Today, the national newspaper published by the news media chain Gannett.
Mr. Walter, a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., will become the fifth person to assume the role of editor and publisher since the Gazette was established in 1846.
While Mr. Walter will arrive next month, he will work alongside Mr. Reston during a transition period. Mr. Reston will remain as president of the Gazette board of directors, and Mr. Walter will report directly to him.
The focus of the Gazette will continue to be its editorial commitment, said Mr. Reston. "The board and the ownership structure will remain intact," he said.
Mr. Walter said yesterday in a telephone interview from San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he has been teaching journalism at the state university, that he sought the position at the Gazette because of its editorial reputation and tradition.
"The paper is deeply rooted in the community and has a wonderful relationship with its readers," he said.
"To me, Martha's Vineyard is in the middle of some of the most exciting debates in America over growth and development and the economy," said Mr. Walter. "On the Island, there's still a chance to do something about those issues, to make a positive impact."
Mr. Walter is married and has three children. His wife is Jan Pogue, and their children range in age from 12 to 20 years old.
While much of his career was spent in big-city newsrooms in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Mr. Walter also worked for the Ithaca, N.Y., newspaper and learned firsthand about island life while managing the daily paper on Guam back in the early 1970s.
Mr. Walter noted that the quality of the journalism practiced at the Vineyard Gazette attracted him because it is rare to find owners who put the emphasis on news gathering.
"It's not a very widespread philosophy in newspapering," he said. "This is a community newspaper that has been blessed through several generations with owners who understood the value of the relationship between loyal readers and a good newspaper."