By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun
8:21 PM EDT, March 20, 2013
Triffon G. Alatzas, who has served The Baltimore Sun as head of digital media and also led the sports and business departments, was named top editor of the 176-year-old news organization Wednesday.
As executive editor and a senior vice president of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, the Baltimore native will lead Maryland's largest newspaper, its websites and other digital platforms, as well as its community newspapers and magazines.
"Growing up in Baltimore, it was always my dream to work for The Sun," said Alatzas, 46. "We have terrific journalists, and I get excited every day when I watch the passion, the excitement when people rally around a great story, the way folks work together."
At the same time, he told a meeting of Sun reporters and editors Wednesday, the promotion is bittersweet. He succeeds former editor Mary J. Corey, the popular longtime Sun journalist who died in February after a long battle with cancer. Alatzas had worked closely with Corey as the No. 2 editor in the newsroom, and had run day-to-day operations during her absences.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Baltimore County, Alatzas first came to know Sun journalists while working part-time at the Bridge Restaurant, the diner his parents owned a block and a half from the Sun building on Calvert Street. It was one of them who gave Alatzas his start in journalism in 1987 with a reporting internship at The Evening Sun.
As head of digital media since 2010, Alatzas oversaw The Sun's website and other electronic platforms during the transition to paid digital subscriptions.
"The Sun's journalism is thriving, and Trif Alatzas has been a driving force behind our success," Timothy E. Ryan, publisher, president and CEO of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, said in a statement. "He was especially instrumental in directing the integration of our print and online news divisions and ensuring that our journalists are skilled in both platforms."
During Alatzas' tenure, The Sun expanded its mobile technology and social media offerings, added more than two dozen hyperlocal news sites and launched the Darkroom photo and video blog — its most popular digital feature ever.
Most recently, Alatzas led The Sun's coverage in print and online of the 2012 elections, the Ravens' Super Bowl championship, and The Sun's investigation into Baltimore's troubled speed camera program.
Alatzas said The Sun remains committed to its "core mission" of "providing the kind of urgent and in-depth local news that our readers demand," and to ensuring that information is available around the clock across its print and digital publications.
"The world continues to change, and the way our readers demand information has changed," he said. "And the great thing, I believe, about The Baltimore Sun is we have embraced all of these platforms. We are committed to print, we are committed to online, we are committed to mobile and social and who knows what else?"
He takes over as The Sun's parent, Tribune Co., emerges from four years in bankruptcy and weighs offers for its newspapers. The newspaper industry as a whole has been challenged in recent years by declining print circulation and advertising revenues.
"What we've done is we focus on good journalism," he said. "That's what we can control."
Alatzas joined The Sun as an assistant business editor in 2002, taking responsibility initially for the real estate section.
He was promoted to business editor in 2008, and led coverage of the financial crisis, housing bust and recession. The Sun was recognized by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers for work during that time.
Sandy Banisky, a former deputy managing editor at The Sun, helped to choose stories for the front page each day.
"We would read a story and say this might not be going in the right direction, or there are some questions that need answering," said Banisky, now a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. "By the time I made my way over to the business desk, Trif was already standing with the reporter, working on changes."
Bill Marimow was the Sun editor who hired Alatzas.
"From the time I met him, I was predisposed to like him as a person," said Marimow, now editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Once I saw his work, it was clear he was an excellent journalist."
In 2009, Alatzas was named sports editor, and expanded online coverage. In 2010, he became head of digital news.
The Sun reached record highs in online audience for page views, unique visitors, local visitors and social media and mobile traffic, and was named the top website the past two years by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association.
Robert Little, a high school classmate, worked closely with Alatzas as investigations editor at The Sun.
"Trif is, of course, the perfect person for the job," said Little, who is now senior investigations editor at NPR. "Not just because he loves Baltimore and he loves journalism, but because he loves The Sun. He's guided it through this digital transition that has got it where it needs to be."
Alatzas lives in Bel Air with his wife, the former Stacey Tiedge, and their children, George, 14, and Jamie, 10.
Raised in Rosedale, Alatzas studied at Calvert Hall College High School and Loyola University Maryland. He earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Loyola in 1988 and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield a year later.
Bill Hawkins was the regular at the family restaurant who offered Alatzas the internship at the Evening Sun.
"He was smart," said Hawkins, who retired as publisher of the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. "He didn't have any great experience, but you know, you could tell he was a winner. If he had a chance, you knew he was going to make the most of it."
Alatzas took his first full-time job in 1989 as a reporter at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y. He later worked as a reporter and editor at the News Journal in Wilmington, Del.
Glenn Proctor, an editor and mentor in Rochester, guided Alatzas in his coverage of county politics.
"He was one of my young guns," Proctor said. "He was a hustler."
Proctor, who retired in 2011 as executive editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, said serving as top editor is "a big weight to carry."
"But he can carry the weight," Proctor said. "He'll be a strong advocate for The Sun, for your readers and for the Baltimore community. I think he'll make the paper even better."
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