January 25, 2020; Public Radio Tulsa
When David Fritze, the executive editor of Oklahoma Watch, announced last month that he would be retiring this year, the board chairman said a restructuring would result in hiring both an executive editor and an executive director, thus dividing Fritze’s job in two.
Oklahoma Watch is just seven years old and reports largely on government and public policy. Its model combines rigorous investigative reporting with the development of emerging journalists.
This replacement of one with two is an old pattern in nonprofits, where the board finds at the end of a long tenure that the existing job is too large for one person. These situations are hardly surprising, especially when organizations grow and diversify over the years. There are inflection points where you realize that existing structures no longer work in terms of sustainability. Additionally, many news organizations already divide leadership between two positions—one that concentrates on the publishing model and one that concentrates on editorial oversight.
While Oklahoma Watch functions with a budget of under $1 million, it can reasonably view itself as a model and it has expansive ambitions. The board chair writes, “We are seeking leaders who can be part of the fast-changing and experimental landscape that nonprofit journalism offers. We want Oklahoma Watch to be known for its high-quality content and its innovation and collaboration. We want it to be an organization that Oklahomans and those who live outside this state are talking about consistently.”
In this case, the board will convene two separate search committees, each composed of board members, to oversee the search for each position, though the search firm will be the same for both.
Fritze has been in journalism for 40 years, with about half of that time spent as a senior editor at the Arizona Republic. “Oklahoma Watch has made a difference for the better,” he says, “convincingly showing that fact-driven, investigative journalism is essential for our state. I will miss it, but I also know that we have created momentum for its growth that is stronger than ever.”—Ruth McCambridge