It isn’t often that I call someone the dean of some industry or group of people. The word doesn’t always fit. But I have to say that upon hearing about the retirement of Bennie Ivory, executive editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Bennie Ivory is the dean of the club of people who are or have been executive editors of daily newspapers, especially Gannett newspapers.
Bennie is leaving — Friday. Yes, that’s quick, this coming from a woman whose own retirement from a Gannett newspaper, went on probably a bit too long. I was trying to be kind by giving my bosses time to recruit a successor. Too long, I now know.
Bennie is a dean of our industry. He served long and well as a leader at several newspapers, including Florida Today, the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal and in Louisville. I met him in 1986, right after I arrived at USA Today, my first Gannett newspaper. Bennie was on the way out to some great adventure to lead a newsroom as managing editor. I was just starting my first top management role as a deputy managing editor at USA Today.
Here is the story/video about Bennie’s departure: http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130722/BUSINESS/307220046/Courier-Journal-Executive-Editor-Bennie-Ivory-retires
Here’s what I remember about Bennie Ivory:
- He was an early champion for newsroom diversity, one of the early ones who spoke up when he saw something inaccurate with the portrayal of people of color in content of newspapers, or to make sure people of color were represented in newsrooms.
- He wears black — every day. I never asked him why but if I had to guess, knowing Bennie, it was a matter of convenience. Never had to think about attire, what matches and what doesn’t match.
- He has a brilliant journalism mind, leading a newspaper that won almost all of the top awards in our business, including the Pulitzer Prize.
- He is not always a happy camper. He complains. Curmudgeon comes to mind. That’s Bennie.
- He is from Arkansas and brother of Lee Ivory, one of my favorite people in the business, himself an editor of great distinction.
- He is gone from our business too quickly. To Bennie, retirement age is 62.
I expect we will keep hearing from black-wearing, thoughtful, talented Bennie Ivory. I expect he will continue to make Louisville his home. I expect he will get some rest for a time and then find a way to share his wisdom in a place where it matters.