Gabriel Escobar, a craftsman of the written word, a force for newsroom innovation, and an inexhaustible leader during big, breaking stories, has been named editor and vice president of Philadelphia Media Network, a promotion that puts him in charge of the entire news report for the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.
Escobar, 60, also will play a leading role in driving the newsroom's strategic planning and serve as a key member of the company's executive team. Previously the managing editor for news, he will report directly to Stan Wischnowski, PMN's top newsroom executive.
"I am honored and humbled by this appointment," Escobar said. "This news enterprise has a great history of great journalism. As with other media companies like ours, we are also facing great challenges. That's why we are in the process of restructuring the newsroom to meet those challenges. We have a very talented staff, and I have no doubt that we will succeed."
The appointment is effective immediately. As part of the transition, Inquirer editor William K. Marimow and Daily News editor Michael Days will take on new roles.
Marimow, 69, becomes PMN editor-at-large and vice president, a role in which he will serve as a lead writing and editing coach for the investigations, power and policy, and regional coverage teams of reporters. He will be part of the group of executives who are planning to introduce a metered online subscription model later this year, considered crucial to the company's financial success. Marimow also will be a newsroom contact for the Philadelphia-based Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which seeks ways forward for news companies in a troubled economic landscape.
Including his time leading the Baltimore Sun and National Public Radio, Marimow has been the editor or managing editor of a major news organization for 24 years.
Days, 63, will become PMN editor for reader engagement and vice president, ensuring that the news organization connects with the Philadelphia metropolitan community. He will collaborate with the team assigned to build PMN's audience and with the leaders of 10 new news-coverage teams. The challenge is to align the news organization with the needs and desires of readers across the eight-county circulation area.
Wischnowski announced the changes Monday morning, as staffers gathered in the newsroom. He said the moves were designed to reset and recalibrate the newsroom to do great things, even at a time when many traditional news organizations struggle financially, beset by drops in newspaper circulation and advertising revenue and a glut of free news online.
He called Marimow "for decades the true heart and soul of the Inquirer," where he excelled as reporter, New Jersey editor, city editor, and editor. He first became editor of the newspaper in 2006.
"It's time for a change," Marimow said, "and the right person is here to lead the charge."
Escobar told the staff: "I have worked with most of you, I admire all of you."
Days' new job will see him become the public face of PMN, meeting and talking with readers across the region about news and news-gathering, seeking to better understand how the news organization can serve the community.
He has spent 10 years as editor of the Daily News and served briefly as managing editor of the Inquirer during a time of ownership upheaval. Days began his career as a reporter, working in Minneapolis; in Rochester, N.Y.; and at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He worked in the Philadelphia bureau of the Wall Street Journal before coming to the Daily News.
"I think Gabe was a perfect choice to bring the newsroom together," Days said.
The elevation of Escobar to PMN editor is part of a major newsroom restructuring intended to deliver the most timely and comprehensive news report to readers across the region. Escobar is one of the architects of the company's digital news strategy. He becomes editor at a critical time for PMN and the news business.
He described his priorities as "a list of one, with many subcategories." The central goal, he said, is to create efficient, effective transformation that enables the news company to compete and lead in a challenging era.
The company is preparing to begin charging money for its online content, a step seen as critical to its future. Meanwhile, the company's labor contract with journalists and other union members expires this summer, putting pressure on all involved.
"Gabe has the vision, leadership and outstanding news judgment necessary to move our news report forward," Wischnowski said. "I'm confident that in this new role he will elevate our journalism and accelerate our transition to a digital-first newsroom."
Escobar, known to everyone in the newsroom as "Gabe," is routinely among the first to arrive in the morning and puts in extremely long hours. He's also known for his ability to drive coverage of big stories, recently including the pope's visit to the city and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
At the Washington Post, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Latin America, as a national reporter covering immigration, and as a crime reporter in a city that had plenty of crime. He was city editor of the Post from 1999 to 2005.
He worked at the Hartford Courant, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Dallas Morning News, a joint position where he served on the editorial board and also as a journalism professor at Southern Methodist University. Escobar also was associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan agency dedicated to the study of the Latino population.
Escobar was born in Bogota, Colombia, and moved with his family to New York City when he was 8, about five years after his father had been killed in a car accident. He spoke no English. His widowed mother brought the children to the United States to start a new life, working first at a Queens wig factory, and then as a hospital nurse's aide.
Escobar later earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Queens College, City University of New York and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. He is married to Louisa Shepard, a news officer in the communications office at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wischnowski said both Days and Marimow have played key roles in Pulitzer-winning coverage — Marimow himself won two as an Inquirer reporter — and have hired and coached scores of staff members who now help form the backbone of the newsroom. Marimow's hires include Escobar.