In a thunderclap of a memo from Chairman Ron Stern, WFP newsers were told late Tuesday that Andrew Ritchie had taken the high jump, er, would be "pursuing other interests".
Editor Bob Cox, the broadsheet's Robin to Andy's Batman, will fill-in as publisher until the third publisher in three years is hired.
FP staff was told that management "will also continue to implement improvements based on the employee surveys that you filled out earlier this year."
Left unsaid was that the main improvement sought by the demoralized rank and file was the removal of Mr. Andrew Ritchie from the masthead.
Even worse for Ritchie was his own standing with Free Press managers, whose survey skewered his leadership and vision and drove him to pledge allegiance to the memory of Carrie Nation.
He will be remembered as the Publisher who took news off the front page, ignored the rampant mangling of the English language in print, ran a malodorous smear campaign against Mayor Sam Katz, and allowed fabricated quotes -- the most egregious sin of journalism.
He also took the Free Press online but the net effect was to alienate readers, by hiding news they wanted to read behind firewalls and hiding apologies and corrections on their web page to keep them out of print.
He tried to turn editors and reporters into bloggers because that sounded cool, but Ritchie found out that nobody wanted to do more work for the same pay and they had nothing important to say anyway.
Gordon Sinclair at least had the integrity to quit his blog before embarassing himself any further, but Bob Cox promised readers "the inside story", although he could only manage to blog on the future of the paragraph and a lame defence of his new city editor's last innacurate story from Ottawa.
Now that he moves into Andy Ritchie's vacant office ( did he leave his putter behind?- ed.), will subscribers notice any change for the better, or will they find out the hard way that Cox the acting Publisher is as disappointing as Cox the Editor turned out to be?