A journalist whose reporting has ranged from hyperlocal coverage of Michigan suburbs to the Iraq War and whose editing has spanned the evolution of print and digital editions has been named executive editor of the Columbia Missourian.
Ruby L. Bailey, a local news editor at the Sacramento Bee, will begin her new role on July 1. She will be the first woman to lead the Missourian’s coverage in the newspaper’s 109 years.
“I’m very excited to be a part of the Columbia community but also the Mizzou community,” said Bailey.
“This is an awesome responsibility, but also a privilege to represent the industry I love and to help students prepare to take the baton and take over.
“This is my chance to give back to a career and a life that has blessed me so richly and to help ensure that the function of the press remains strong,” she said. “That starts in communities.”
In addition to holding the title of executive editor, Bailey will hold the Missouri School of Journalism’s Missouri Community Newspaper Management Chair. In that role, she will work with community newspapers across Missouri to help improve their coverage and operations.
“Ruby Bailey brings a rare set of skills and experience that make her the ideal next leader of the Columbia Missourian,” said David Kurpius, dean of the school and publisher of the Missourian. “She cares deeply about connecting with communities, telling important stories and doing so in a way that keeps pace with the constant state of change in journalism today.”
Bailey, 51, earned a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in 1989 and worked for the Flint Journal in Flint, Mich., for three years before joining the Detroit News. In 1998 she joined the staff of the Detroit Free Press, where she worked for 16 years. There she was a business and enterprise reporter and became a Washington correspondent, where she covered news of interest to Michigan readers. She also covered the 9/11 attacks, and was embedded with the U.S. Navy in 2003 for three months covering Operation Iraqi Freedom. She later became an assistant metro reporter in Detroit focused on improving the newspaper’s online edition.
In 2014 she joined the Sacramento Bee, where she led a team of reporters focused on increasing and improving the Bee’s digital content. She has experience covering and editing all aspects of local news, including business, entertainment and feature coverage.
Bailey replaces Mike Jenner, who has served as interim executive editor since January 2017. Jenner will return to his role on the journalism school faculty as the Houston Harte Endowed Chair.
Bailey said she hopes to get out in the community and across the state and get a feel for the needs, issues and hopes of people. “I will be outward facing,” she said. “My hope is to be accepted and to become a part of the community in Columbia and the journalism community in the state.”
Major Garrett, Chief White House Correspondent for CBS News, is the president of the Missourian Publishing Association, the non-profit Missourian’s governing board. Garrett said, “The Missourian is the nation’s most important collegiate laboratory for daily journalism. It is also Columbia’s voice and heartbeat at the connection between university and community.
“Ruby Bailey is the bold, innovative and experienced leader this community newspaper needs. She is a reporter and newsroom leader who excelled as technology changed and economic challenges multiplied. That is not easy,” Garrett said.
“This experience and Bailey’s boundless enthusiasm will give the Missourian a knowing voice and vision for the future. On behalf of the board of the Missouri Publishing Association, I enthusiastically welcome Bailey to the Missourian and say, ‘This treasure is yours and you have our full confidence and respect.’”
The Missourian is where the “Missouri Method” was pioneered, where students learn the practice of journalism by covering real news for a real audience. Its editors are members of the Journalism School’s faculty, but the reporting, photography, design and production of the print and digital editions are done by students of the school. Over the years it has produced thousands of journalists, including Garrett and Jenner — and many editors, reporters and journalists in the state’s community newspapers.
“Ruby has a wonderful ability to connect with journalism leaders,” said Kurpius. “The unique combination of holding the top newsroom position and the endowed chair will allow her to share her experiences and knowledge with editors and publishers across Missouri and nationally.”
Doug Crews, former director of the Missouri Press Association, which helped found the school and funded the chair Bailey will hold, served on the search committee that identified her as a finalist for the job.
“I’m very optimistic about Ruby and the prospects of having her in this position,” he said.
“Ruby brings a lot of outstanding editorial skills. She’s also skilled in new approaches in digital media. She’s very enthusiastic,” he said.
“The press association endowed that chair almost two decades ago to establish a liaison between the press association and the School of Journalism,” said Crews. The chair was previously held by professor Jim Sterling, who retired in 2017. “We look forward to having Ruby in that liaison role, and I think we can build on that and develop some cooperative projects.”
Bailey, who describes herself as “passionate and high energy,” is eager to get started.
“My mission has always been to serve the readers. Whether interviewing a beat cop or the President of the United States, I was working to serve the readers,” she said.
“When you come to Columbia with that kind of background, Columbia becomes home and its concerns are my concerns. Its successes and challenges are mine.”
Supervising editor is Mike Jenner.