Forum editorial page editor Jack Zaleski retiring

FARGO-Jack Zaleski, The Forum's longtime editorial page editor, retires Friday, Feb. 10, after three decades of writing commentaries on issues of the day with a pen that could bestow blisters or balm to his subjects.Zaleski, 70, was named editori...
Forum editorial page editor Jack Zaleski speaks Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in his office. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO -- Jack Zaleski, The Forum’s longtime editorial page editor, retires Friday, Feb. 10, after three decades of writing commentaries on issues of the day with a pen that could bestow blisters or balm to his subjects.

Zaleski, 70, was named editorial page editor in 1987, succeeding Jerry Ruff, who had held the position since 1981. Before joining The Forum, Zaleski had been the editor and general manager of the Devils Lake Journal, where he had worked for 18 years.

Until Ruff and Zaleski wrote editorials and edited the opinion pages, The Forum’s editorials were written by the editor.

When Zaleski was hired by William C. Marcil, chairman of Forum Communications Co. and at that time The Forum’s publisher, he was given a mandate to make changes to the opinion section to better reflect the changing community and readership.

“He wanted to broaden the outlook, the scope of The Forum editorial page to be more inclusive and responsive than it had been in the past,” Zaleski said. “Together, we accomplished that.”

One of the changes was to devote more space to letters to the editor -- “and therefore opened up the page to more voices,” he said.

“It’s really been a professional pleasure to be part of that evolution,” Zaleski added. “That has occurred under the direction of Bill Sr. and, in the last few years, Bill Jr.,” a reference to Bill Marcil Jr., who succeeded his father as Forum publisher in 2010 and also serves as president and CEO of Forum Communications.

“Jack Zaleski’s institutional knowledge of our state, our country and our business has been invaluable,” Bill Jr. said. “ I thank him for his passion and love of The Forum and this business.”

William C. Marcil said Zaleski’s experience as a journalist and editor have been a valuable asset to The Forum.

“Our editorials are well-read and give readers our position on important subjects of the day,” he said. “Whether readers agree or not, we believe strong editorials are the responsibility of a free press. Jack has been a loyal, hard-working editor. I wish him well.”

After a hiatus, during which Zaleski will travel to visit family on the East Coast, Zaleski will continue writing his weekly personal opinion column. He also will maintain an office at The Forum to work on a special project for the company.

Zaleski was known for writing editorials that could be blunt in criticizing his subjects, sometimes provoking angry responses. He said he strived to be independent and be a positive influence, even if a sharp rebuke was called for.

“The skin does get a little thicker,” he said. “With management and ownership that is extremely supportive of the independent voice of the page, you can take positions that anger some people who think they’re in power.”

No successor will be named to assume the role of editorial page editor.

“After Jack, we are breaking the mold or, in one respect, moving back to an editorial page system in place before 1981, when The Forum first employed an editorial page editor,” said Editor Matthew Von Pinnon.

Angie Wieck, a Forum business reporter, will now be Community Editor. She will organize all opinion activity for both print and online, and engage new voices for both.

“Angie’s got some fantastic ideas that you'll see start to take shape this spring. She's excited for this new role and I'm excited to see where she'll take us,” Von Pinnon said.

As for editorials, the institutional voice of the paper, they will be written by a variety of employees, including the editor.

For the next few weeks, readers will see few, if any, changes to the printed op-ed page. At some point, likely in March, The Forum will debut most, if not all, of the changes it plans to make and the page will keep evolving from there.

Von Pinnon said Zaleski’s retirement and the changes coming as a result are a big moment in the newspaper’s history.

“Jack literally and figuratively won’t be replaced.”