Lenore Devore resigned as editor of The Ledger today, 22 years after joining the newspaper staff and six years and eight months after becoming its top news executive.

Publisher Brian Burns, the newspaper’s top business executive, met this afternoon with the dwindling newsroom staff to tell them about the resignation, saying Devore wanted to work on personal development.

Devore, 54, was aiming for advancement when she came to the newspaper in May 1995 as metro editor (the position had been called city editor previously) and ascended to the newly created position of assistant managing editor six months later and then managing editor in 1998.

Six months after former Executive Editor Skip Perez retired in 2011, Devore was promoted to the top newsroom spot and took on the upgraded title of Editor.

Burns did not responded to requests for comment.

Devore said in a response to this article: “One of the reasons I resigned today is because I am sick and have not been successful in fighting this – following four months of back issues. I have laryngitis and have refused almost all calls today. But I will comment tomorrow.”

UPDATE: In a Thursday-morning post visible to her Facebook friends, Devore said in part: “I resigned from my position as editor yesterday for personal health reasons and to spend more time with Bill, tend to long-overdue hurricane repairs and a bathroom remodel, and the like. I am so grateful for the many friends I’ve made in the community, especially those who understood I was always a journalist first.”

In an interview Thursday, Devore said she’s considered resigning because of her health for a long time but that she stayed a year longer because she enjoyed working with Burns. However, she said made the biggest improvements in her health when she took off two weeks over Christmas and realized that she needs to take more time to heal.

Devore said she has had several career offers locally, but that she will wait until her health improves before deciding whether to pursue a local opportunity or resume her journalism career elsewhere.

There’s been no word yet on who will be  running the newsroom.

The only newsroom manager other than Devore listed among company officials on the “masthead” at the top of the editorial page is Lynne Maddox, 66, a 47-year Ledger employee who is currently assistant managing editor. (No one has held the title managing editor since Devore became editor; I was managing editor/digital until my position at the newspaper was eliminated in 2014.)

A senior editor with GateHouse Media, The Ledger’s owner, will arrive Thursday afternoon to help assess newsroom needs.

As editor, Devore has had to manage the downsizing of the newsroom during a time when newspapers nationwide have faced declines in advertising and subscriber revenue. The Ledger newsroom, which boasted nearly 100 employees around 2001, is down to about a quarter of that size now.

Most employees have seen no raises in 10 years as the newspaper’s ownership transitioned from the New York Times Co. to Halifax Media and then to the current owners, GateHouse Media.

Dissatisfaction with GateHouse ownership led to a 22-3 vote by news employees in 2016 to be represented by the News Guild-CWA, Communications Workers of America, making The Ledger’s newsroom the first in Florida to affiliate with a union.

As the news staff shrunk, Devore took on more writing duties. She contributed restaurant reviews to Timeout, the newspaper’s entertainment magazine, and handled twice-monthly “Five Questions” front-page interviews with newsmakers.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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  1. Barry: I’m happy to comment. But you called about a minute before posting this, when I was on the phone with family. One of the reasons I resigned today is because I am sick and have not been successful in fighting this – following four months of back issues. I have laryngitis and have refused almost all calls today. But I will comment tomorrow.

  2. I’m proud to say that I’ve worked with both Lenore Devore and Barry Friedman. I’m sad to acknowledge that the journalism we once knew has faded with the times. I’m beyond words as I salute them and the entire Ledger staff for soldiering on through years of declining readership to do the essential work of community journalism. Their efforts have never been more important. Lakeland should be proud of their contribution.

    — Jody Grenert, Ledger copy editor/assistant news editor (1986-1991)

  3. Not many jobs as difficult or thankless. Same goes for all newsroom positions. Wish her improved health with less stress.

  4. This will simply make it so much harder for all who remain. I also had the privilege of working with both Barry and Lenore. Their combined commitment and dedication have been inspiring. This is a significant loss for our community.

  5. I think it long past time for Gatehouse to address the drain in newsroom staffing and talent. A lot of news is not covered or not covered as completely as it once was. That results in wire copy and stories from other newspapers being used to fill space that was once filled with local copy. Polk’s readers are the ultimate losers.

  6. Lenore was a great editor and a great person. I loved every day working at The Ledger, and she knew how to correct me when I needed correcting (and I needed a lot) and give me positive vibes when I needed them, too.

    I’m sorry to hear she hasn’t been well. Best of luck, Lenore, in future endeavors, and I hope you find an outlet for your many talents and skills.

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