Publisher, editor announce departures from Statesman


Publisher Susie Biehle and Editor Debbie Hiott announced Monday that they are leaving the American-Statesman.

Biehle has been the newspaper’s publisher since November 2012, and Hiott has been editor since November 2011. The announcement of their departures comes five months after GateHouse Media finalized its purchase of the Statesman from Cox Enterprises, which had owned the paper for 41 years.

The newspaper had recently announced that it was extending voluntary buyout offers to all of its employees, and Biehle and Hiott told employees Monday that they had chosen to take the separation offer. The newspaper did not disclose how many other employees also had decided to take buyouts.

“I’ve been thinking for a while about the right time to retire, and it simply felt like the right time to allow new leadership to take the reins,” Biehle told employees. “It has been the greatest privilege of my career to serve in this role.”

Biehle’s career in newspapers dates to 1984, when she became vice president and director of marketing at the Arkansas Gazette, which during her tenure shifted from private ownership to becoming part of the Gannett media chain. She stayed with Gannett, moving to Detroit in 1991 to work as a top executive running the business operations of the city’s two major dailies before becoming executive vice president and general manager of the chain’s flagship paper, USA Today.

Hiott came up through the ranks at the Statesman, starting as an intern covering weekend reporting shifts while attending Southwest Texas State University and rising through editing roles leading metro and state coverage and eventually the entire newsroom.

“It was a tough decision, but after 28 years in this newsroom, I am ready for a new challenge,” Hiott said. “I love the Statesman and the people who work here, and I expect to be a supporter long after I am gone.”

During Hiott’s tenure, the Statesman was named Texas Newspaper of the Year three times by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors. She beefed up the newspaper’s investigative efforts, resulting in groundbreaking reporting on child abuse deaths, veterans care and state contracting and countless examples of local accountability reporting.

“In the seven years I have been editor, the Statesman has over and over again revealed problems and pushed for change for the better of the community and received plenty of state and national recognition for the journalism we do,” Hiott said. “But no single person is responsible for the tremendous success that the newsroom has achieved in recent years. That’s why I feel confident that this newsroom will continue to persevere under new leadership.”

Biehle called Hiott “one of the top editors in this business. She has led the Statesman through change, challenge and sometimes chaos — and through it all, has sustained talent, fostered diversity and maintained the coverage areas that are important to our community.”

Hiott will leave the paper on Sept. 30 and Biehle on Nov. 30.



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