The presses are rolling, and the voice of the Key Peninsula can still be heard, thanks to some fast action taken by the newspaper staff and the board of the Key Peninsula Civic Center (KPCCA). The executive committee and the newspaper staff engineered a summit meeting July 15, in response to the resignation of the Executive Editor Rodika Tollefson.
Tollefson’s resignation followed on the heels of Publishing Committee Chairman Bill Trandum’s. Trandum had been instrumental in the rebirth of the newspaper in February of 2003, after the KPCCA shut it down for five months due to financial losses. The newspaper has since “proven itself to be economically viable” and “has assembled a cadre of dedicated and public-spirited journalists,” Trandum said. The nonprofit newspaper is produced by three part-time paid staff and a small group of volunteers. A fourth paid position, assistant editor, was added in July.
At the July 15 meeting, the staff aired several concerns to committee members, including that editorial control was the issue leading to the resignation of Tollefson, Trandum and a longtime staff writer.
“While past and present members of the Civic Center board deserve a great deal of credit for founding and sponsoring the community news bulletin that eventually became today’s Key Pen News, the editorial controls that they insist on prevent staff from reporting on subjects the board considers to be inappropriate, divisive, or controversial,” Tollefson said in a statement prior to the July 15 meeting. “I did not feel that as a journalist I could lead a paper where I am not fully allowed to use my professional judgment…It would be my hope that the board will see the value of an independent voice. I think the community deserves that.”
Apparently, that is exactly what the executive committee heard and believed. A special meeting of the KPCCA board was called July 18, and the board voted to accept a revision to the policy language concerning the organization of the newspaper. The revision moved the publishing responsibility of Key Peninsula News from the executive committee to a board of directors comprised of three staff members and two executive committee members.
The KPCCA will maintain ownership of the newspaper, which will continue to serve its goal of community building, but individuals who actually produce the Key Peninsula News will oversee its operations and policies.
KPCCA Executive Committee Vice President Loyd Miller said the KPCCA vote to approve the revision was unanimous. “We still have to have an editor, and I hope the people on the staff will stay with us,” he said. Tollefson expressed her belief earlier that the staff would remain on board if the revision were approved.
Tollefson said part of her decision to leave was due to the time commitment the paper has required and that after 18 months of many volunteer hours she needed to focus on other priorities. She said her original goals for the reborn paper were accomplished and she felt it was time to find a new leader. But she stated she would “gladly remain in a limited capacity” such as a volunteer writer if “the Key Peninsula News is allowed to become a truly independent voice without the political pull of various groups.”
Both Trandum and Tollefson offered to assist the Civic Center in making a smooth transition to new leadership.
The executive committee is sorry to see Tollefson leave, according to Miller.