McKeithan leaving WDN

Published 1:02 am Friday, December 2, 2011

Ray McKeithan, president and publisher of the Washington Daily News, is leaving the newspaper at the end of the month to take a position with PotashCorp-Aurora.

McKeithan will replace Michelle Vaught as manager of public affairs and governmental affairs. Vaught resigned from the position earlier this year.

McKeithan informed Daily News employees about the move during an emotional gathering in the newspaper’s newsroom and advertising offices Thursday afternoon. McKeithan came to the Daily News in 2001, taking the position of associate publisher and general manager.

“Words are difficult for me at this time. I have a genuine love for this place, this newspaper,” McKeithan said in a written statement. “I think about my early days over a decade ago working with Mr. Futrell and Brownie. Of course, Mrs. Futrell came in each day just to keep me on my toes! I miss them much, am forever indebted to the Futrell family.”

Steve Stewart, vice president of Boone Newspapers Inc., praised McKeithan’s leadership of the Daily News. Washington News Media LLC, which purchased the newspaper from the Futrell family in 2010, is an affiliate of BNI.

“Ray has been a good partner and friend over the past 15 months,” Stewart said in a written statement. “His steady leadership and knowledge of the community have been important to making an orderly transition in leadership of the newspaper. We made excellent strides under Ray’s watch, including the launch of Washington the Magazine, which has been enthusiastically received by the community. We are sorry Ray is departing, but are pleased that he will continue to live and work in the area. We have made treasured friendships with the McKeithans, and we look forward to continuing that friendship with Ray and his wife, Robin, and we wish them well.”

McKeithan said he has enjoyed his association with Boone Newspapers and has “gained much professional satisfaction in working with them the past 15 months. They’re a good company and genuinely care about serving this community with quality products. Steve Stewart has been a wonderful mentor to me, one of the most talented newspapermen I’ve worked with. It was not an easy decision to leave, by any means.

“What’s hardest: saying goodbye to my friends and coworkers here at the WDN. They are an amazing group of people that have lifted me up on difficult days, inspired me on the good ones. They have been tolerant and supportive — on days I must have made it difficult!

“I will also miss readers; my extended family. Believe it or not, I appreciate the angry calls about missed papers and the complaints about Sound Off, and most appreciate the positive comments we’ve received when merited.”

Chris Toppin, human-resources manager for PotashCorp-Aurora, said in an email that the company is “excited to have Ray McKeithan joining the PotashCorp-Aurora management team on January 3, 2012 as Manager, Public Affairs. In that position, he will lead our governmental affairs activities as well as sustain and enhance positive relationships with the local communities.”

“I am excited about my new career,” McKeithan said. “PotashCorp is a solid company and a top corporate citizen. I am proud to join such a progressive organization and look forward to continuing an active role in the community that I love. I feel very blessed to leave one great organization for another.”

McKeithan said he would recuse himself from all decisions about news coverage of PotashCorp and commentary about the company during his remaining weeks at the newspaper.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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