Mark Donald Resigns as Observer Editor
As I write this my farewell post, I keep hearing in my head the lyrics to a song from the Marx Brothers classic film Animal Crackers: "Hello, I must be going/ I cannot stay, I came to say/I must be going."
Similar to Groucho's character, Captain Spaulding, it seems as though I just said hello, just took over the reins as editor of the Dallas Observer. But it's been three and a half years, and after much deliberation and soul searching, I have decided to resign. I have not come to this moment easily but have wanted to pursue other career opportunities for some time now.
Throughout my 15-year (non-consecutive) tenure at the Observer, first as a contract writer under Peter Elkind, then as an associate editor and staff writer under Julie Lyons, and now as editor, it has been my distinct honor and great pleasure to work with some of the most talented, intelligent and industrious people in journalism.
Truth is, mine has been a wild ride: The marriage of print and web content has been a glorious, demanding challenge for every newspaper across the country, and few have met that challenge as successfully as the Observer's parent company, Village Voice Media.
When I began as editor, we had our news blog, Unfair Park, which became the prototype for all news blogs in the VVM chain, thanks to the remarkable talents and tireless devotion of its editor Robert Wilonsky; and we had a fledgling music blog, DC9 At Night, which has become the dominant music blog in the city, thanks to the passion of music editor Pete Freedman. In recent years, we have added the sports blog, Sportatorium, cleverly written by Observer columnist Richie Whitt, and a food blog, City of Ate, edited by masterful managing editor Patrick Williams. Just last week, City of Ate was nominated for a James Beard Award, one of the most prestigious honors in food journalism. And our staff writers have won national and regional writing awards too numerous to mention in this post.
Our web traffic has grown exponentially; each month we receive roughly 4 million page views at dallasobserver.com. I am particularly proud of how well our long-form print stories do online, defying conventional wisdom that Internet users only want to read what's short, whimsical and immediate.
Oh, there are things I won't miss: the incessant drumbeat for instant content to feed the beast, the fiscal restraint I had to exercise to feed the beast during a recession and the silence that seizes rollicking conversation among my staff as the boss approaches to see what the good time's all about.
I am proud of all we have accomplished, the stories we have told, the battles we have fought (I'm thinking Jim Schutze here), the times we have shared. I will miss it all, the good and the bad of it, but I know I am leaving the paper in good hands. There will be no gap in coverage or commitment as another editor is waiting in the wings. I will say no more, but readers can look forward to an announcement soon.
In the meanwhile, for me, it's time to start the next chapter of my life, and I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife and three terrific kids with whom to do it. So in the words of the immortal Groucho Marx, "I'm glad I came but just the same/ I must be going."
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