Joni Balter, the longtime Seattle Times editorial columnist and frequent critic of Mayor Mike McGinn (most recently, she argued against his plan for later bar hours in Seattle), is moving into the Times' newsroom after 16 years on the editorial side.
In an email, Balter told PubliCola that her new title will be assistant political editor. "I have long wanted to try some editing," Balter says. "I am taking the lead on the Politics Northwest blog, trying to give it a bigger presence on the site and make it a must read."
The paper hasn't made an official announcement, although Slog's David Goldstein got a copy of the announcement memo last week.
Times spokesman Jill Mackie says that executive editor David Boardman " strongly believes Joni’s skills will be an asset in our political coverage this year."
Mackie continued: "A big piece of [the decision] was brought on by the challenges in the upcoming political campaigns and our desire to be well staffed for the whole political season." Will Balter be doing straight reporting about the mayor's race starring her foe Mike McGinn? "The mayor's race is just a small piece of that." Mackie says.
Mackie says Balter will be "backing up" politics editor Richard Wagoner. "She's definitely not going to be an editorial writer or a columnist, so the question is, how much editing is she going to do and how much reporting is she going to do."
It's unclear how the rest of the editorial staff will react to Balter going from a very outspoken columnist to writing straight news---and, potentially, editing reporters on the news side.
Fizz hears that Balter may have sought to head up the editorial board, a position to which Kate Riley was appointed back in December.
Balter did not return a call for comment.