Newsmakers

Staff changes, promotions, retirements at Texas newspapers.

JILLIAN SMITH
The Kerrville Daily Times

KERRVILLE – Jillian Smith is the new managing editor of The Kerrville Daily Times.
The appointment in January was announced by publisher Carlina Villalpando, who noted that Smith brings years of experience in reporting and editing.
Smith comes to Kerrville from her native northeast Texas and hometown of Sulphur Springs, where she managed an award-winning news team at the News-Telegram, previously a part of Southern Newspapers Inc.
Prior to that position, Smith worked with The Albany Herald in Albany, Georgia, and Farm Press in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Smith is a graduate of Auburn University and has a 15-year-old son.
Smith succeeds former Managing Editor Louis Amestoy, who worked for The Times for about a year and a half. During his tenure, Amestoy helped advance the newspaper’s digital reporting and engagement efforts, which Villalpando said she hopes Smith will build on.

STEFFANY DUKE
Dripping Springs New Century News

DRIPPING SPRINGS – Steffany Duke joined the staff of the Dripping Springs Century News as editor in January.
Duke succeeds former editor Bonnie Gonzalez.
She has experience in television news as well as print journalism.
Her newspaper experience began with the Orange County Leader when she was in high school. While a student at Lamar University, she worked for the student newspaper and landed a job as production assistant at KBMT-12 News in Beaumont. Later, she worked as a sideline reporter for the Friday Night Sports Blitz. After college she worked as a news producer and reporter in Beaumont before moving to Austin to work in state public relations.
She and her husband Derrick have three children. They have been residents of Dripping Springs since 2009.

Bridges retires at Statesman; Garcia succeeds him

AUSTIN – Editor John Bridges announced plans to retire in March from the Austin American-Statesman, and the news organization named respected industry leader Manny García to succeed him. 
Bridges will leave the Statesman after 32 years; he currently serves as executive editor.
García, who currently leads ProPublica’s Austin-based investigative partnership with the Texas Tribune, will become the Statesman’s editor and vice president. García previously served as standards editor and East Region executive editor for the USA TODAY Network, which now includes the American-Statesman and seven other Texas daily newspapers. 
Bridges will leave the Statesman in March after 32 years. He rose through the newspaper’s editing ranks to serve as managing editor for seven years and executive editor for the past two.
“I’m proud to have been a part of three decades of impactful journalism in Austin and helping make the Statesman what it is today,” Bridges said. “It’s time for a new challenge for me, and I’m excited to see what this talented staff does next.” 
During his leadership, the Statesman was named Texas Newspaper of the Year three times and won national recognition for investigative reporting from the National Headliners, Online News Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors, in addition to hundreds of state awards.
He’s led the Statesman newsroom through a series of ownership, systems and production changes following its 2018 purchase by GateHouse Media, which then merged with Gannett to form the nation’s largest newspaper publisher.
“John lives and breathes Austin and the Statesman,” said Statesman Publisher Patrick Dorsey. “He has always been a strong leader of our news team and is leaving a legacy of impactful journalism that not only won awards, but more importantly, created positive change. His dedication to community journalism is always at the forefront. John has been a great partner and I am going to miss his presence both professionally and personally.”
A University of Texas graduate, Bridges is a former Arnold Rosenfeld Editor of the Year for Cox Newspapers, past president of the Texas Associated Managing Editors and a board member for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
García helped launch the ProPublica-Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative a year ago and serves as its senior editor. That team has produced substantive projects that exposed the misuse of millions of public dollars in border wall construction, wrongful arrests during the COVID-19 curfews in the Rio Grande Valley and the scandalous deportation of undocumented children. One investigation caused a high-interest lender to the Latino community in Texas to drop thousands of its debt claims against customers, many of whom had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
García is also former editor of the Naples Daily News, and was editor and general manager of Spanish-language el Nuevo Herald and senior news editor of the Miami Herald.

Express-News columnist, veteran reporter Gloria Padilla retires

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Express-News columnist Gloria Padilla retired in January after a 43-year career in the newspaper industry.
In a column announcing her retirement, the 1978 University of Texas graduate said the bulk of her career, which included stints at four newspapers, was spent with the Express-News, where she worked since the mid-1980s. She served first as a reporter covering city hall, federal courts, county government, the criminal justice system and higher education before becoming an opinion columnist 20 years ago.
Padilla and her husband, Don Finley, a former medical writer, were among the survivors of the San Antonio newspaper war, the fierce competition between Rupert Murdoch’s Express-News and the San Antonio Light, owned by the Hearst Corp.
“We had just mailed off our first home mortgage payment when we learned that Murdoch was selling our newspaper to the Hearst Corp.,” Pasilla wrote. “For a few panicked minutes, I thought it was the Express-News that would be shuttered.”
However, it was the staff of The Light who lost their jobs. When Murdoch sold the Express-News to the Hearst Corp. in 1992, Hearst closed its own paper, laid off that staff and kept the Express-News.
“It has been devastating to see colleagues here and across the country lose their jobs as more and more newspapers downsize or close,” Padilla said.
She noted many changes in the newspaper industry since her generation entered the field as college graduates drawn to journalism careers during the Watergate crisis, when Washington Post investigative reporting by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.
“Today there are many who would consider the news media the enemy and discredit the work being done. Yes, staffs are shrinking.  Circulation numbers for newspapers printed on paper are down. But the day-to-day work of reporting the news in communities across our nation — and across the globe — is more important now than ever before,” Padilla said.
“News organizations play a vital role in maintaining transparency in government and holding elected officials and public agencies accountable.”
As a minority hired in the mid-1980s, Padilla said she worked hard to prove she wasn’t “simply hired to fill a quota.” Being among the few bilingual reporters gained her a few plum assignments, she added.
While diversity issues still persist in the country’s newsrooms, Padilla said she was encouraged by the Hearst Corp.’s efforts to address it.