The Star Tribune's top editor, Rene Sanchez, is resigning to become the editor of his hometown newspaper in New Orleans.
Suki Dardarian, the newsroom's second-in-command, will succeed him as the Star Tribune's editor and senior vice president.
Sanchez has held the top post at Minnesota's largest newsroom for the past eight years, leading the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize in 2021.
"It's hard to leave such a dedicated, talented newsroom,'' Sanchez said. "We've been through a lot together, and I am particularly grateful for the entire staff's heroic work of the past two years.
"But after nearly nine years in this role, it feels like the right time to embark on a new challenge. The opportunity in my home state is very appealing. And Suki will be a truly great successor.''
Dardarian, who joined the Star Tribune as senior managing editor in 2014, helped guide the newspaper during a period of relative internal stability under the ownership of Minnesota businessman Glen Taylor.
She has played a critical role in the paper's coverage and support for its 230 journalists over the past two tumultuous years in Minneapolis and the surrounding communities.
"The Star Tribune has been changing ever since the day I walked in the door and that will continue, I guarantee that," Dardarian said. "We want to serve this whole community, we want to engage people in a way that they can connect with each other and help improve this community."
Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Mike Klingensmith said he expects a smooth leadership transition that will take place over the next two months. The company will immediately begin a nationwide search to fill the role vacated by Dardarian.
"The decision on Suki was one of the easiest decisions I've had yet on personnel matters since I arrived at the Star Tribune. She is completely ready for the task. She is deeply experienced," Klingensmith said. "Her news judgment is impeccable, but also her creativity and energy is infectious."
Sanchez is returning to his hometown of New Orleans, where he will become the vice president of news and executive editor of the Times-Picayune/the Advocate/Nola.com. His parents, sister and entire extended family still live in Louisiana. Sanchez's daughter, raised in Minnesota, is a sophomore at Tulane University in New Orleans.
He spent much of his early journalism career at the Washington Post, holding reporting positions in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Sanchez has spent the past 17 years at the Star Tribune, where he quickly ascended leadership ranks.
During his tenure, the Star Tribune redoubled its commitment to local, public-service journalism.
"Local journalism doesn't have to mean parochial journalism," Sanchez said. "Anything we cover is a lens into national life."
He spurred reporters to deliver high-value stories to readers that could not, or would not, be delivered elsewhere.
"What a pleasure it's been to work with Rene," Klingensmith said. "I've worked, going back in my magazine career, with a lot of editors and I've never worked with a better one."
Even before the Louisiana paper came calling, Sanchez said he'd been reflecting on how leadership change can be healthy for an organization and the leaders themselves.
"To step back, have some humility, appreciate what you've done," Sanchez said, "and also recognize it can be really invigorating — not only for you to have a new challenge — but for a newsroom to get a fresh jolt, to have a different perspective."
He added: "It wasn't that I was eager to go at all, but it felt like a good time, here in year nine, knowing someone as good as Suki could step in."
The newspaper industry has faced immense challenges in the past two decades as consumption of news and information has rapidly evolved. Small and midsize newspapers have been hurt the most as readers flock to free, digital sources of information and entertainment.
Klingensmith and Sanchez resisted the urge pursued by many industry peers of forsaking its print products in exchange for a full-throated digital approach. Sanchez consistently pressed the news staff to pursue meaningful, deeply reported and carefully written articles.
As a result, the Star Tribune has maintained a far more robust physical newspaper than similar-sized outlets and is now the third-largest daily metro newspaper in the United States by circulation.
The paper's leadership also has sought to balance print stabilization with its long-term future, which is digital.
Dardarian, who had a distinguished 14-year career at the Seattle Times before coming to the Star Tribune, has spearheaded the paper's digital evolution, which now boasts more than 100,000 digital subscribers. She has led the company's strategy of refocusing on local news and public-service journalism, leaning hard into digital storytelling with an eye on growing the newspaper's online audience.
"The transformation to a converged multiplatform newsroom will definitely continue apace; it must," Dardarian said. "We do a phenomenal job in print and we do a phenomenal job digitally, but we need to get more skillful at the choreography of it. And I think our journalism gets better as we do it."
Dardarian started her career as a reporter in Everett, Wash., and Tacoma, Wash., before climbing the editor ladder at the Seattle paper. Those experiences, and the ones she's had in Minnesota, have reinforced her commitment to freedom of the press, open government and local news that covers the entire community.