BANGOR, Maine — Executive Editor A. Mark Woodward announced Monday he is retiring from the Bangor Daily News effective Jan. 1, 2010, after 38 years with the family-owned newspaper.
“It is a decision reached after many months of personal reflection, discussions with my wife (herself happily retired now for two years), and careful assessment of what I might be able to accomplish for our company if I continued in my current role,” Woodward said in a prepared statement issued to colleagues.
As executive editor for the past 12 years, Woodward has emphasized the importance of community through his service on boards of organizations promoting education, economic development and elder care; in his philosophy of giving priority to local news; and in his interactions with other departments at the BDN.
Publisher Richard J. Warren praised Woodward for his leadership.
“Mark Woodward has been a considerable force at the Bangor Daily News for over 38 years. He has been a remarkable leader of both our editorial page and editorial department as editor of the former and, most recently, as executive editor of the latter. His leadership has extended well beyond the NEWS to many endeavors in the Bangor community and state of Maine. Mark retires from the BDN with the admiration and appreciation of all his colleagues,” Warren said Monday.
Woodward graduated from the University of Maine in 1969 with a political science degree and joined the BDN in 1971 as a city reporter. He became editorial page editor in 1982 and left the paper for eight months to be communications director for Sen. Susan Collins in Washington, D.C., in 1997. He was named the paper’s executive editor in the fall of that year.
“It would be simple to measure Mark’s impact on the newsroom by the numerous awards the BDN has won under his stewardship,” Managing Editor Michael J. Dowd said Monday. “I think Mark’s leadership is best measured by the enthusiasm, professionalism and dedication our staffers display day in and day out. It all stems from his can-do attitude.”
The newsroom was a place of clacking typewriters, glue pots and the smell of oil-based ink when Woodward began as a reporter. One of his personal highlights as a reporter was sitting on the Main Street steps of the BDN with Jim Longley, talking with Maine’s soon-to-be first independent governor about state government and issues of the day.
As editorial editor and writer, Woodward proactively took on sticky political subjects including health care, veteran services, the papermaking industry, environmental issues, land access, sustainable forestry, domestic violence and public access to government information.
Woodward said Monday some of the more memorable topics for him included the bottle bill, workers’ compensation, the Big A controversy, Indian Claims Settlement Act, and advocating for the deinstitutionalized mentally ill.
Woodward also encouraged public discussion through Letters to the Editor, the development of several local OpEd columnists, and theme OpEd packages.
As executive editor, Woodward has valued the special role of a family-owned newspaper in Maine’s small communities and especially in the city whose name it carries. He is a past member of Bangor Rotary, Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce (past president), and Maine Discovery Museum board of trustees.
He has been involved in many aspects of community life from helping to bring the National Folk Festival to Bangor to organizing Bangor area religious, school, political, health care and law enforcement leaders into an informal group that developed a community dialogue about safety in the local schools after the Columbine shootings in Colorado.
He also helped establish a statewide courts and media committee, which meets to resolve issues of mutual interest or concern, and is a regular participant in Husson University’s business breakfasts.
Woodward said one of the most gratifying experiences of his career was during the Ice Storm of 1998. Although it was unsafe for trucks to make deliveries outside of Bangor, free copies of the paper were handed out from the BDN’s Main Street office. Woodward said that simple act served as a symbol to reassure the public that its basic institutions were working in the midst of the crisis.
Another pivotal moment for him came at 3:30 a.m. as a small staff gathered around a computer screen at the end of a long Election Day, trying to come up with a headline for the unclear presidential race between Al Gore and George Bush. Woodward said a headline stating the race was undecided reminded him the BDN is in the business to report the news, not forecast it.
Woodward’s retirement announcement spread quickly through the community he has served for so many years. Gov. John Baldacci grew up in the east side Bangor neighborhood Woodward has called home for the last 35 years.
“He’s a go-to person, a problem solver and a consensus builder,” Baldacci said Monday. “Mark Woodward has been a tremendous resource to me and the state of Maine.”
Specifically, Baldacci noted Woodward’s input on several current economic issues including the development of the state’s wind power potential and the growth of composite wood technology at the University of Maine.
“He had enough experience that you always got a thoughtful and reflective response,” Baldacci, a Democrat, said of the many talks he has had with Woodward over the years. “He is certainly going to be missed.”
Sen. Collins was among the first to offer well wishes. “Mark has always had a passion for the newspaper business and, more important, a love for the state of Maine,” she said. “Under Mark’s leadership, the BDN moved into the digital age without losing focus on its mission — to always serve its readers and its advertisers. I know that he will be missed by his family at the BDN. I wish him and his wife, Bridget, all the best.”
The other three delegation members also extended well wishes to the Woodwards.
“I’ve seen firsthand Mark’s enduring commitment to the highest journalistic standards, and his unwavering dedication to Bangor and the state of Maine were clearly evident in his tireless work for a legendary Maine paper that serves as the voice of the news for such a significant portion of our state,” Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe said.
Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud agreed.
“Newspapers face a lot of challenges and demands today, especially with the arrival and widespread use of the Internet. Mark has been there to steer the ship, and his vast experience has served him and the paper well,” Michaud said.
Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree said, “Mark has shown leadership, vision and integrity during his nearly four decades at the Bangor Daily News. We should all be grateful for Mark’s contributions to journalism and his commitment to the community.”
Woodward said the most radical change to newspapering is the advent of e-mail and the Web, which he described as two rails of the same track that blur news and opinion.
“It has allowed anyone to pass off their commentary as news. Others seeking information find this ‘news’ that supports their own biases and become inadequately informed. This skews everything because we no longer have a common base of knowledge,” he said. Woodward indicated newspaper Web sites can help by applying the same standards for objectivity and accuracy used in the print products, thereby re-establishing that common base.
Woodward leaves a newsroom staff of 64 under Managing Editor Dowd’s direction.
“While we examine our corporate structure, Managing Editor Mike Dowd will continue to be responsible for the Editorial Department and the day-to-day newsroom operations,” Publisher Warren said.
Woodward, who has no immediate plans for his retirement, said he will miss the people he worked with the most. “The issues never go away,” he said.
Assignment Editor Jeff Tuttle contributed to this report.