By Kevin Wheatley
The State Journal
Carl West didn’t see The State Journal as his last career stop when he became editor in 1979.
“But it’s evolved to that,” he says.
West, 70, announced his retirement effective Jan. 31 in a staff meeting Friday, ending a career in print journalism that spanned nearly half a century and landed him in the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.
State Journal Publisher Ann Dix Maenza has named Dan Liebman, former editor of The Blood-Horse magazine in Lexington and current owner of Staxx BBQ, the newspaper’s editor beginning in mid-January.
West, who cut his teeth in journalism while working for The Kentucky Post in the 1960s and later covered the Watergate scandal for Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., will still have a spot at the newspaper though.
He’ll keep his office overlooking the newsroom and work on his schedule.
But for now, West plans to do something he hasn’t had time for in decades: piddle.
“I’ve been in this business almost 50 years, and I have the right to piddle for a few days,” West said in his office Friday. “I have the right to take a two-hour lunch, to not worry about matters on evenings and weekends.”
After he adjusts to his new environment, West says he plans to write about topics that interest him and remain active with the Kentucky Book Fair, which he founded in 1981. He may even take one of the several fly rods in his office to a quiet creek for some fly fishing.
SUPPORT FOR LIEBMAN
West supports Liebman, a Frankfort native who started his journalism career at The State Journal, “110 percent,” he says. He described Liebman as an industrious reporter who had a nose for news during his days with the newspaper and someone who always stayed in touch throughout his career.
“You couldn’t write a better ticket than Dan Liebman for editor of the local newspaper,” West said.
Liebman, 53, says the support of his former editor “means everything in the world.” Liebman always emailed West, the late Publisher Al Dix and Sports Editor Phil Case when he climbed another rung on his career ladder, which includes stops at the Daily Racing Form as a columnist and deputy editor of The Racing Times, both based in Lexington.
He says he’s glad West will keep a presence at the newspaper. The outgoing editor has offered to help Liebman as he transitions into his new role.
“It means a great deal that the person that was one of my first mentors is here,” Liebman said Friday. “He’s here supporting me, going to help me any way, and believe me, I will need that support, and I will need that help.”
Liebman, who was director of research, executive editor and editor-in-chief in his 17 years at The Blood-Horse, says he’s excited for the chance to lead his hometown newspaper.
He describes himself as a hands-on editor who enjoys working with the entire product, from copy to headlines to photo cutlines. He’s also looking forward to helping reporters hone their craft.
There won’t be much of a learning curve for the 1976 graduate of Franklin County High School, who cited his familiarity with the community as an advantage.
“I saw Derrick Graham at the bank this morning,” Liebman said. “I don’t have to learn who people are, and I think that’s a good thing. I know the paper, and I know what it’s known for.
“I’m very excited to get in and get started.”