Mark Baldwin recently completed his first month as executive editor of the Rockford Register Star and The Journal-Standard of Freeport, Ill. We ask Baldwin about his new position, his motivation as a journalist and his passion for Northwestern football.
What do you like most about the Rockford Register Star and The Journal-Standard in Freeport now that you have been executive editor of the newspapers and websites for the past month?
In Rockford, what I like most is the depth of writing, reporting and editing talent on the staff and the deep knowledge of the community that each reporter and editor brings to work each day. It’s a joy to work with people like that. What’s most impressive about Freeport is the can-do attitude of the staff. Though small, they have large ambitions. I like that.
What drives you to succeed on a professional level?
Like anyone in this kind of job, I enjoy the big story, whether it’s an election or a disaster or a long-term project. And I enjoy the satisfaction that comes with holding institutions and public officials accountable. But what I find most personally meaningful is putting the staff in position to succeed, whether that’s through daily coaching or formal training or by identifying fresh approaches to the work. I liken my job to that of a point guard in basketball – I get a thrill out of providing an assist to the people who actually score the points. That’s what drives me.
What is the best advice you have received in terms of managing a newsroom staff?
A couple of things stand out. The first is to be there for the staff on the big story. Be visible, be present, and drive the coverage. The second is to remember that the job of executive editor is to hold the compass for the newsroom. That means repeatedly articulating the overall direction and vision for the newsroom so everyone understands what’s expected of them.
What interests do you have outside of the newsroom?
Well, the first thing I did after accepting the job in Rockford was to order two season tickets to Northwestern football games. So that’s my autumn passion. I’m a big magazine reader, and I also typically am plowing through a book of history on my iPad. My wife, Sydney, and I enjoy sampling microbrews wherever we can find them and following the adventures of our three adult daughters.
How does it feel to see your alma mater Northwestern Wildcats crack the top 25 in football?
Let me answer this way: I was an undergraduate in the mid-to-late ’70s -- in the marching band, in fact – and saw the Cats wind up on the short end of some of the ugliest, most lopsided games imaginable. I was in graduate school when the Cats finished an 0-34 run. So every victory and every ranking is oh-so-sweet. Go Cats!
Editor's note: The Wildcats' run in the AP Top 25 poll ended after one week following a loss to Penn State.