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Richard Green named executive editor of The Press Democrat, chief content officer of Sonoma Media Investments

A veteran journalist who led his Kentucky newsroom to a 2020 Pulitzer Prize has been named executive editor of The Press Democrat and chief content officer of its parent company, Sonoma Media Investments.

Richard A. Green, an Ohio native whose journalism career started as a high school sophomore, will oversee coverage and staff at the 163-year-old daily newspaper and six other SMI publications.

As editor of The Courier Journal in Louisville, Green guided the newsroom to the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for the staff’s coverage of more than 650 eleventh-hour pardons and commutations issued by outgoing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in December 2019.

Green assigned more than a dozen reporters and editors to dig into Bevin's actions as he was leaving office. Their stories revealed pardons for some of the most serious crimes went to people with political connections, money or both. The team also reported a blanket pardon freeing more than 300 prisoners serving time for drug offenses allowed only 16 Black inmates to walk free.

Press Democrat publisher Steve Falk said he was thrilled Green will bring experience leading a variety of newsrooms across the country during a nearly 34-year career with the Gannett Co., which owns USA Today and nearly 260 other news sites across the country.

Before his Louisville post, Green was top editor at The Desert Sun in Palm Springs; The Des Moines Register in Iowa and The Record and northjersey.com in Bergen County, New Jersey. He also served as a regional president and publisher at The Register and The Cincinnati Enquirer.

“Rick is recognized across the country as a distinguished editor and publisher and has improved the quality of every newspaper at which he worked,” Falk said in a statement.

Green, 55, said he was “incredibly honored and humbled” for the opportunity to work with the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists at The Press Democrat and across the SMI company. He said he wants to bring Sonoma County readers refreshed and invigorated coverage of local and regional news, the kind of crucial information needed during a seminal era in the nation’s history.

“Now, more than ever, you need a dependable, fair and fearless source of local news,” Green said in an interview. “That’s what we are, and we will take it higher in terms of sophistication, public service journalism and strong breaking news coverage.”

Green said his objective is simple: “We will be the best news organization of our size in the country. I'll work hard as a hands-on coach and mentor for our staff and as a thoughtful, attentive listener in the community.”

Green steps into the role following the 21-year tenure of former executive editor Catherine Barnett, who retired in December after more than four decades with the newspaper. Barnett oversaw The Press Democrat newsroom through the 2017 October firestorm and the coverage that earned the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News.

Green will assume a broader and more strategic role as chief content officer, working with the staffs and story plans at all properties owned by Sonoma Media Investments. They include the Sonoma Index-Tribune, Petaluma Argus-Courier, North Bay Business Journal, Sonoma County Gazette, Sonoma magazine and La Prensa Sonoma along with their related digital sites and newsletters.

“Replacing someone with Cathy Barnett’s talent and long-standing involvement in our community was difficult,” Darius Anderson, majority owner of Sonoma Media Investments, said in a statement. “We have an amazingly talented award-winning staff, and Rick Green is committed to taking our journalism of distinction to the next level while enhancing our investigative journalism. We are optimistic and excited about our future.”

Green said he was excited to lead a locally owned media site that is “unencumbered by debt and is not beholden to the demands of Wall Street and hedge funds.“

“I wanted to work for a news organization with a proven track record for stellar journalism, built on a strong financial footing, with visionary leadership from owners committed to the community and a collective hunger to elevate the quality of its content,” he said. “I’m confident this is a terrific fit.”

Green started his journalism career as a high school reporter with his hometown paper, The Coshocton Tribune in eastern Ohio. He had no driver’s license at the time and would ride his bike across a rural east-central Ohio highway to cover meetings for water boards and village trustees.

He completed his journalism studies at Ohio University in 1987. He has worked as reporter, bureau chief, assignment editor, top editor and regional president and publisher at Gannett papers, departing last December when he took a buyout and stepped away from the Louisville newspaper after 2½ years as its executive editor.

Green helped lead The Courier Journal’s coverage of the Louisville police shooting of 26-year-old medical worker Breonna Taylor, whose death in March became a flashpoint for community outcry over policing and racial injustice. After Taylor’s death, his newsroom produced hundreds of stories addressing racism and inequities, persistent coverage that involved nearly every reporter — from photographers and news reporters to sports writers — in the room.

“I come to Sonoma County with a burning passion for memorable storytelling and revelatory watchdog reporting that holds our public figures statewide accountable while putting our readers first — however they may find and read our content,” he said.

He begins the job in Sonoma County the week of Feb. 22.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The predecessor to The Press Democrat was founded in 1857. This story has been updated to correct a reference to the age of the newspaper.

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