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Publisher of Philadelphia papers resigns

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PHILADELPHIA (AFX) - Just a month after the ownership of Philadelphia's two major newspapers changed hands, employees have another big adjustment to make: The publisher is resigning.

Joe Natoli, a longtime Knight Ridder Inc. executive who has been at the helm of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News since January 2004, will join the University of Miami as chief financial officer and senior vice president of business and finance.

"It's an opportunity, at 51 years of age, to take on a new adventure," Natoli told The Associated Press. "I'm going home."

Natoli's extended family is in South Florida. He spent 30 years with Knight Ridder, including more than two decades at the Miami Herald.

Before coming to Philadelphia, he was the publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, a paper once owned by Knight Ridder. Knight Ridder was recently acquired by The McClatchy Co.

Natoli said Brian Tierney, chief executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings, the newspapers' new owner, does not plan to name a new publisher immediately.

Meanwhile, the editorial departments will report directly to Tierney, although Natoli said the CEO's pledge of not interfering with editorial content will remain. Tierney has tapped Gordon Medenica, a consultant and former head of strategic planning at The New York Times Co., to deal with editorial issues.

Heading off speculation that he was pushed out, Natoli said Tierney asked him to stay and that the university recruited him months ago when the job opening came up.

"We wanted Joe to stay," Tierney wrote in a memo to the newspapers' staff. "Our plans revolved around keeping the current management team in place, and Joe was an important component of that team."

Natoli said he visited the school two weeks ago and "things moved very rapidly and I had a decision to make." He told Tierney of his plans several days ago.

The timing of his resignation is important. When Tierney's group took over from McClatchy in June, newsroom employees took comfort in the new owners' plans to leave Natoli in his position and the newsroom management intact.

"Many people in the newsroom liked Joe. He's a very easy guy to talk to. He's warm," said Marcia Gelbart, an Inquirer reporter. "In spite of all the turmoil, people felt good about having him around. He's a reassuring figure."

She said Natoli's departure brings feelings of uneasiness that other reassurances could change, especially as union contracts expire this month. Tierney has pledged not to cut jobs or benefits. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be

Copyright 2006 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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