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Houston Chronicle shakeup continues: Former first lady joins editorial team; big pay cuts for others

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Andrea White, Headshot, June 2012
Andrea White Upcitychronicles.com
Nancy Barnes new editor in chief at Houston Chronicle head shot September 2013 VERTICAL
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News_Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen Courtesy of Genesis Photographers
Andrea White, Headshot, June 2012
Nancy Barnes new editor in chief at Houston Chronicle head shot September 2013 VERTICAL
News_Jeff Cohen

The ever-changing Houston Chronicle has made a surprising hire: Former Houston first lady Andrea White is joining the editorial staff on a temporary basis that could become permanent.

The move came after former Chronicle editor Jeff Cohen, who now heads up the editorial page, called her "out of the blue" to see if she might be interested in the opening, White tells CultureMap. The wife of former Mayor Bill White is an accomplished author of several books and has a strong interest in education but has never written editorials on a continuing basis. She also has a law degree from the University of Texas.

 "We're taking a look-see," White said. "I'm excited about the opportunity." 

White has been sitting in on some editorial board meetings and plans to join the staff Feb. 1 full-time for one month on a contract basis. After that, both sides will evaluate the relationship to see if they want to continue.

"We're taking a look-see," White said. "I'm excited about the opportunity."

White is canvassing her vast array of contacts on issues they think are important to Houstonians and encourages anyone with ideas to contact her at andrea@andreawhitetexas.com.

While the current shakeup at the Chronicle is mainly focused on the news side, the editorial staff is not unscathed. Lisa Gray, who previously split her time between writing editorials and writing well-regarded feature columns on Houston preservation and urban life, has been transferred to the city desk staff, where she will cover suburban education beginning in February.

Sources say that David Langworthy, a longtime Chronicle editorial staffer with a more conservative view than most editorial board members, plans to retire. Political writer Joe Holley will likely move to the Chronicle editorial board on a full-time basis, while continuing to write his weekly Native Texan column.

A Beleaguered Newspaper

In other moves, new Chronicle editor Nancy Barnes plans to discontinue the Bayou City Chronicles column by Tony Freemantle as well as a features column by Kyrie O'Connor. O'Connor will move to the city desk as a reporter, with the medical beat among possible options. Freemantle will also remain on the city desk. Among other changes, Dane Schiller, a senior reporter on the investigative team, is mulling over a move to the federal courts beat.

"(Barnes) really is shifting as much of the weight as she can towards the newsroom," says one staffer. "(Former managing editor) Steve Proctor was a very strong proponent of narrative and column writing. This is a shift in the opposite direction."

Proctor left the newspaper last October after Barnes came to Houston. She hired Washington Post metro editor Vernon Loeb to replace Proctor.

Several members of the management team and some writers have been asked to take pay cuts up to 30 percent as Barnes seeks out money to hire additional reporters, multiple sources said. High on the list of new hires is a reporter to cover immigration.

Barnes did not respond to a request for comment about the changes.

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