Betsy Lumbye leaving Bee; Jim Boren new editor

Betsy Lumbye, who has led The Fresno Bee's newsroom for the past six years -- and through some of the most difficult economic times in the newspaper's history -- will retire Dec. 28 as The Bee's executive editor.

Jim Boren, a Fresno native and a 43-year veteran of The Bee, will succeed Lumbye as executive editor.

"There's nobody in the world who will love this paper the way that Jim will," Lumbye said when the changes were announced to The Bee's newsroom staff Tuesday.

Boren, 63, started working at The Bee while he was still a student at Fresno State, first as a vacation relief reporter and later as a sports reporter and a general-assignment news reporter before settling in as The Bee's political reporter from 1980-95. He has been the editorial page editor for the past 17 years.

"I'm truly humbled to be able to lead this newsroom," Boren said. "I grew up in this town, I read this newspaper as a kid, and it's truly a dream come true to be the editor of this newspaper."

He acknowledged the changes wrought on The Bee and at newspapers across the country by economic recession and competition from online news outlets.

"It's a changing environment and a tough environment," Boren said. "The challenges are huge, but the opportunities are huge as well."

Boren said his priorities will include maintaining The Bee's coverage of local news across the San Joaquin Valley. "We want to bring every important local story home to our readers in a way that makes it important to them," he said.

He added that he wants to continue the foundation built by Lumbye to transform The Bee into a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week source of breaking news online in addition to the daily printed newspaper.

When he isn't writing editorials for The Bee, Boren competes in master's level meets throwing the discus and shot put, as well as getting in the occasional round of golf.

Lumbye, 57, joined The Bee in 1997 as the assistant managing editor and was promoted to managing editor the following year. She was appointed executive editor in 2006.

Lumbye's six-year tenure as executive editor was marked by an economic downturn that forced the newspaper to cut staffing, including editors, reporters and photographers in the newsroom.

Lumbye described the period as "intense." But, she added, "in the depths of the recession, when things were just so grim, what really kept me going" was the accomplishments of the newsroom staff.

Bob Weil, vice president of operations for The McClatchy Co., thanked Lumbye "for leading us through what has been an incredibly challenging time for all businesses."

Lumbye "has always fought hard for reporters, fought hard for readers," interim Publisher Tom Cullinan added. "She did a terrific job for this newspaper."

Before coming to Fresno, Lumbye was the managing editor at another McClatchy newspaper, the Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina, for three years.

She began her journalism career 32 years ago at a weekly newspaper in her hometown of Warrenton, Va., and was a reporter and editor at newspapers in Colorado, Tennessee and Stockton before joining McClatchy.

Lumbye said she believes the newspaper is "headed in a good direction after a really tough recession," and that the time is right for her to move on.

"I'm really proud of leading this newsroom through the Great Recession at the same time we were making a revolutionary transition from all print to a multiplatform, continuous news operation."

She praised the newsroom staff for its perseverance through the difficult times. "Day after day, week after week, through good times and bad, they continued to inspire me with their dedication and talent," Lumbye said.

Lumbye, an avid horsewoman, said she plans to continue writing and editing, but first, "I'm going to take some time to decompress and decide on my next adventure."

Eventually, she said, she expects to return to the East Coast to be closer to family.