The Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday named as its new executive editor Richard Green, the former editor of The Courier Journal in Louisville who led that newspaper to a 2020 Pulitzer Prize and two 2021 Pulitzer finalists.
Green is currently executive editor at The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., north of San Francisco. He will start work in Lexington on Sept. 25.
“I am so honored and incredibly excited to be returning to Kentucky and for the opportunity to work with the talented Herald-Leader newsroom. I have admired that staff for decades, and I cannot wait to roll up my sleeves and join it,” Green said.
Green succeeds Peter Baniak, the Herald-Leader’s editor since 2009. In June, McClatchy promoted Baniak to become its vice president of news for small and medium markets.
The privately owned McClatchy publishes more than 30 newspapers around the country, including the Herald-Leader.
Green will also be McClatchy’s Central Region Editor, working with newsrooms in Illinois and Pennsylvania as well as Lexington.
On Monday, Baniak said Green first impressed him “as a relentless competitor and leader” when Green led The Courier Journal.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for him to lead the Lexington newsroom and to bring his energy and love of our craft to the Herald-Leader,” Baniak said.
“Rick is an innovative editor and journalist with boundless energy for the work we do,” Baniak said. “He loves to break news, dig deep and right wrongs — and he knows the critical importance of growing the audience that supports our journalism. He also knows Kentucky.”
Green is an Ohio native with many ties to Kentucky.
His birth family has roots in Eastern Kentucky’s Lawrence County. His wife, Laura Lydon Green, is a Louisville native whose family still calls the city home.
Two of their four adult children are in the state, one is a junior at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and the other works in Louisville.
Green also has an adult son who lives in Covington.
Green started his journalism career as a 15-year-old high school sophomore at his local newspaper in east-central Ohio, The Coshocton Tribune. In 1987, he finished his journalism studies at the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and joined the Gannett Co. about an hour’s drive away as a reporter at The Chillicothe Gazette.
He spent the next several decades rising in the newsroom ranks at the Gannett chain of newspapers, with stints at the Cincinnati Enquirer; The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif.; the Des Moines Register; and The Record/North Jersey Media in Bergen County, N.J.
In 2018, Green was named editor at The Courier Journal in Louisville. His newsroom staff won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for its breaking news coverage of former Gov. Matt Bevin’s controversial pardons and commutations as he left office.
Green’s newsroom was a two-category finalist in the 2021 Pulitzers in breaking news and public service for its coverage of the shooting death of Breonna Taylor and the subsequent summer of protests and for the newspaper’s dogged investigation of the Louisville Metro Police Department.
He accepted a buyout from Gannett in December 2020 and relocated to California.
Now he’s relocating right back to Kentucky.
“I’ve loved the redwoods, vineyards and Pacific Ocean coast here in Sonoma County and the team that has delivered powerful journalism for this region north of San Francisco,” Green said.
“But there’s no place like home, and that’s how I view Kentucky, even though I’m a proud native Ohioan. It’s an honor to do the kind of consequential work that I love closer to my family and friends in a place that I love at such an important moment in the commonwealth’s history.”
Green said Herald-Leader readers and subscribers should “expect a sharp focus on fair and fearless journalism.”
“Our credibility is only as good as the sophisticated content we produce. That means our staff will have just one objective: to be the best newsroom of its size in the country, defined by our memorable storytelling, breaking news coverage and watchdog journalism,” Green said. “We’ll defend the First Amendment, cover news as it happens digitally and protect the most vulnerable among us across the commonwealth.”