Ashley: Welcome our new news editor

Feb. 23, 2013 @ 12:37 PM

Careful readers may have noticed a new name on our “masthead” – the box at the top of the editorial page with the newspaper’s name and that of the publisher, editor and news editor.

Wes Platt is not a new name to readers of The Herald-Sun, of course. He has covered kindergarten-high school education for us for nearly a year, but two weeks ago he moved into the role of news editor.

It’s an important role here. The news editor not only oversees our news operation in the evenings, he or she is responsible for our editorial pages. And Platt, a social-media junkie, is spearheading our efforts to expand our reach through Facebook, Twitter and similar platforms.

For the time being, as we search for his successor as education reporter, he’s also keeping his hand in at school board meetings and such.

He’s a busy man these days.

Platt brings a great background to the job, having worked not just in journalism but also in computer-game design.  He says he has always been a news junkie, recalling that “I watched the Watergate hearings on TV at the babysitter’s house.”

A Florida native, the space program and Disney’s Magic Kingdom loomed large in his early experiences.

“One of my earliest memories is of watching the Apollo 11 launch from Titusville,” he wrote in an email when I asked him for background. “Years later, working for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times), I’d have a much better seat as a journalist to watch the space shuttle Atlantis launch from Cape Canaveral.”

In addition to the St. Pete paper – where he began as an intern and eventually headed a suburban bureau – he has been news editor at the Daily Dispatch in Henderson, like The Herald-Sun a Paxton Media Group newspaper. After a brief stint there, he joined us in June of last year.

Between his St. Petersburg and Henderson stints, he spent nearly a decade in what he calls “the never-quite-stable computer game design market,” first on his own, eventually with a Cary company called Icarus Studios.

When Platt and I were discussing the news editor job, much of the conversation was about The Herald-Sun’s commitment to local news as our paramount mission. “We Are Durham” is more than a slogan for us – it’s a core value.

“I look forward to maintaining our focus on community news and building on that foundation,” Platt says. “Every day, I want articles, columns, editorials and other features in our pages that get people talking.”

I’m especially excited about Platt’s zeal for social media, an area where his predecessor, Christian Zavisca, gave us a great start and where Platt’s charge is to move us quickly forward.

“At its core, a newspaper should be about far more than just telling the community what’s going on,” Platt wrote. “We should also serve as a facilitator for conversations that expand beyond the pages that roll off our presses every day.”

You’ll hear and see a lot from Platt in the months ahead – on these pages, on the web, on Facebook and in Twitter posts.

“I want to set your smartphone buzzing with alerts, always reminding you there’s something new to check out in The Herald-Sun,” he says. “But I’m also looking for conversations. Talk back if something draws your attention.”

You can reach him by phone at 919-419-6684 or by email at wplatt@heraldsun.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HS_Platt, or connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.

Don’t hesitate to let him – or me – know what you think.

Bob Ashley is editor of The Herald-Sun. You can reach him at 919-419-6678 or bashley@heraldsun.com. With a week or so more of Platt’s influence, you’ll be able to follow him on Twitter.