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David Mazzarella, editorial director of Stars and Stripes since 2001, will resume his previous job as ombudsman for the newspaper.
David Mazzarella, editorial director of Stars and Stripes since 2001, will resume his previous job as ombudsman for the newspaper. (Patrick Dickson / S&S)

WASHINGTON — David Mazzarella, editorial director of Stars and Stripes since 2001, will retire from that position in early 2007 and resume his previous job as ombudsman for the newspaper, it was announced Friday.

The transition is planned for March 1.

He will succeed Joseph Ungaro, a former Gannett Co. executive and Stars and Stripes consultant, who died Nov. 12.

Most newspapers have an ombudsman, or readers’ representative, but for Stripes, the ombudsman also helps ensure its protection as a full First Amendment newspaper.

Mazzarella, 68, retired as editor of USA Today in 1999. He joined Stars and Stripes as ombudsman in 2000 for a three-year assignment.

A year and a half later, he was asked to take over the top editorial job, with the understanding he would return at some point to being ombudsman.

“My tenure as editorial director lasted longer than anticipated,” Mazzarella said. “But it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs I have ever held because of the important role the newspaper plays in the lives of America’s servicemembers, particularly those in harm’s way in the Middle East.”

He continued: “It’s time to move on — or back, really — to the job of ombudsman and its unique responsibility of assuring the journalistic well-being and freedom of the newspaper.”

A successor to Mazzarella, whose career in journalism spans 44 years, has not been named.

“Dave has been a joy to work with,” said Tom Kelsch, the paper’s publisher. “His insistence on excellence, knowledge of the news business and obvious enthusiasm for it have raised the quality of the news product to unprecedented levels. His commitment to independence and the accompanying responsibility for objectivity have fostered a high degree of professionalism in the staff and respect for the product by our readers.”

“Dave reminds all of the editors at Stripes every day why we’re here: It’s all about our readers,” Executive Editor Robb Grindstaff said. “Will they be interested in this story, will it impact their daily lives, is it accurate, well-sourced and objective? Stripes is a better newspaper due to Dave’s leadership in the newsroom.”

Managing Editor Doug Clawson said, “It’s impossible to overstate what Dave has meant to this newspaper. Even if I were to eliminate the fact that he is the smartest newsman I have ever come across, his integrity alone should serve as a shining example to everybody and anybody who has ever worked in this business.”

Stars and Stripes is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. It operates under First Amendment guarantees from Congress and the DOD and protections against any interference in its content. It is the ombudsman’s job to see those freedoms are enforced.

Reid MacCluggage is interim ombudsman

Reid MacCluggage, a former editor and publisher of The Day in New London, Conn., has accepted the position of interim ombudsman at Stars and Stripes, effective immediately. MacCluggage will serve in the position until David Mazzarella takes over, slated for March 1, 2007.

Described by outgoing publisher Tom Kelsch as “a fierce fighter for the independence of the news product and for the need for quality and objective journalism,” MacCluggage is a member of Stripes’ publishers’ advisory board, started in April 2006 in part to ensure smooth transitions when there were changes in management.

Stars and Stripes ombudsman Joe Ungaro died suddenly on Nov. 12.

— Pat Dickson

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