CORPUS CHRISTI – Caller-Times president Libby Averyt retired Feb. 17 from a 30-plus year career at the newspaper.
Averyt, 53, said retirement was a personal decision. What she will miss most, she added, are those who she worked with side-by-side, who have shown a steadfast commitment to the Caller-Times and the community.
“I’ve met people who I would walk through fire with — people who always reinforce for me that journalism is a noble profession and one when done correctly and with integrity, which we do here, can really make an impact on the community and make lives better for everybody,” she said.
“Because I’ve been fortunate enough to hold several different positions here in different departments, I have grown to have a deep appreciation for all of the elements of a media organization that make it work — from sales to production, to the guys running the press at night, to our managers who are overseeing distribution, to certainly the newer journalists who have come on since I left the newsroom who are experts at digital media and social media, and who I have every confidence will take us into the future.”
Averyt will continue to live in Corpus Christi, she said, a city she loves and has made her home for nearly 31 years. After some downtime, she anticipates she will find new ways to continue her involvement in the community.
“I’m very much invested in creating a wonderful place to live and work and play, and still want to do everything I can to make that happen,” Averyt said.
A longtime community leader, Averyt currently serves on several boards, including those for the Texas State Aquarium, Charlie’s Place Recovery Center, Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce and United Way of the Coastal Bend.
As a recent University of Texas graduate, Averyt started her Caller-Times career in 1986 covering the night police beat, a position historically reserved for cub reporters to gain experience before taking on other beats in the courthouse, the educational system or City Hall.
As a courts reporter in 1990, Averyt drew national attention after refusing to answer questions about unpublished material from interviews with capital murder suspect Jermarr Arnold. She was held in contempt of court, and spent the weekend in a jail cell. Recounting the experience in June 2015, Averyt said she’d felt that “if people saw me as just an extension of law enforcement that they wouldn’t want to talk to me.”
She was later recognized for her journalistic commitment with the Edward Willis Scripps Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment.
In her more than 20 years in the newsroom, Averyt steadily moved up in the ranks from rookie reporter to executive editor. While heading the newsroom, Averyt led the newspaper to recognition five times as Newspaper of the Year along with numerous other awards from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors association.
She also served a stint as the online general manager and vice president, later becoming vice president of advertising.
On Jan. 1, 2014, Averyt made history as the first woman to be named the newspaper’s publisher. She took on the role after the retirement of Darrell Coleman.
She helped lead the Caller-Times through several transitions in recent years, including its change in ownership from The E.W. Scripps Co. to Journal Media Group Inc., and from Journal Media Group to Gannett Co. Inc. in April 2016. The $280-million acquisition made the Caller-Times and 14 other Journal Media Group newspapers part of The USA Today Network.
In addition to serving as president of the Caller-Times, she oversaw Gannett’s news operations in Abilene, San Angelo and Wichita Falls.
Gannett regional president Terry Horne said he tried to persuade Averyt to stay.
Averyt said she is looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for the newspaper, its new leadership and the strong leadership already in place.
Quality community journalism isn’t going anywhere, Averyt said, adding that she will remain a loyal reader of the Caller-Times. The newspaper has held a significant place in her life since she started her work in Corpus Christi at age 22, she said. “I literally have grown up, made mistakes, had some successes, gone through a number of life experiences while I have been here at the Caller-Times,” Averyt said. “I will always feel like a part of the Caller-Times family.”