Mike Wilson, the editor of The Dallas Morning News, will be leaving the publication at the end of the year, he announced in a statement to his staff on Tuesday.
Wilson has been in charge of the daily's newsroom for nearly six years, leading his staff through the July 7, 2016, shooting deaths of five police officers, natural disasters, and for the last few months, a pandemic.
“Running a newspaper today is like swimming across a hot fudge river: You gorge yourself on the decadent pleasure of it, but you have to kick like hell to get to the other side,” Wilson said in the announcement. “So I’m full, and I’m tired. My immediate plan is to just recharge.”
In the coming weeks, Keith Campbell, the News’ managing editor, will take over newsroom leadership, and the editorial editor, Brendan Miniter, will take over the editorial board until the publisher decides what to do next.
“You need and deserve fully engaged leaders,” Wilson told his staff. “You are in the best and most capable of hands."
The News’ coverage of the 2016 Dallas police shooting that left five officers dead was nominated for a Pulitzer in the breaking news category the following year. Jaimie Thompson, a former DMN contributor, said she and Wilson worked together for months on her interactive coverage of the police shooting titled “Standoff.”
The two would meet regularly for breakfast at Cindi’s New York Deli to discuss the story. The work ultimately won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing and led to Thompson’s book by the same name, which was released this month.
“It’s a huge loss for Dallas,” Thompson said in an email to the Observer. “Mike Wilson is one of the best narrative editors in the country, beloved in journalism circles. Whatever he does next, if he’s editing, he’s going to have writers fighting over who gets to work with him.”
Nic Garcia, a DMN staff writer, said, “Everyone is just really shocked and saddened by the news, but obviously we wish Mike the absolute best." Garcia has only worked under Wilson for about a year, but he said one of the reasons he wanted to be on staff at the Morning News was to work with him.
"To have the chance to work under Mike Wilson was any reporter's dream," Garcia said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
In a statement on Twitter, Lauren McGaughy, an investigative reporter for the Morning News, said Wilson helped answer tough ethical questions in their coverage of police use of hypnosis. “I really appreciated him taking the time with me to talk through all my myriad questions and concerns,” McGaughy said. “I'm a better reporter for it.”
Though he is tired and full, Wilson said he is excited for what’s in store. He said he plans to keep on doing what he loves: writing, editing, leading, teaching and learning. He couldn’t divulge what’s next for him yet, but Wilson said he is in early talks about where he’s going to end up.
“Mike Wilson tirelessly guided The Dallas Morning News through a much-needed digital and cultural transition during some of the most challenging times in journalism,” Todd Davis, a senior audience journalist at the Morning News, said in a statement on Twitter. “I hope the next burden he bears is much lighter.”
Wilson was the first outside hire for editor the publication had seen in 35 years. Before his tenure at the Morning News, he worked for the Tampa Bay Times, Miami Herald and ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight. Several of the paper’s staff members have been named Pulitzer finalists, and the publication has won two National Edward R. Murrow Awards since he took over.
“It has been the privilege of my life to work with all of you in the shadow of the Rock of Truth,” Wilson told his staff. “Thank you for your colleagueship and friendship. And always know that what you do is essential and worth the swim.”
In a letter to staff, Publisher Grant Moise said Wilson played a pivotal role in the News’ transition to a sustainably profitable digital newspaper.
Moise said that when Wilson took on the position of editor, the Morning News was a print-first publication. “Thanks to [Wilson’s] commitment and vision, we are one of the most advanced digital legacy news organizations in the country,” he said.
Leah Waters, a multiplatform DMN editor, said the publication's investigative pieces would not have been as hard-hitting and in-depth without Wilson as editor. “He really championed big enterprise stories that have an impact and relevance to our readers,” Waters said.