Mary Irby-Jones, top editor for the Clarion Ledger and Hattiesburg American, is leaving Mississippi to lead the Courier Journal newsroom in Louisville, Kentucky, USA TODAY Network South Regional Editor Michael Anastasi announced Tuesday.
Irby-Jones, a Mississippi native and veteran journalist with more than 30 years of professional experience, will join the Courier Journal on March 12 as executive editor. She became editor of the Clarion Ledger in January 2020.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Irby-Jones said. “I love my home state, and the Clarion Ledger. I’m proud of the work we’ve done here in Mississippi and I look forward to continuing to do great work in Louisville.”
Both papers are part of the USA TODAY Network, owned by Gannett.
“We’re very excited about this opportunity for her to lead in Louisville,” said Anastasi, who oversees the Mississippi newsrooms in a South region that includes publications in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee. “It’s always sad news and happy news at the same time when things like this happen because we’re extremely happy for the opportunity for Mary, and sad because we have to say goodbye to her.”
Under Irby-Jones’ leadership, the Clarion Ledger newsroom has provided strong, impactful coverage of major news events, including the recent historic ice storm, the Pearl River flooding in February 2020, the deadly Easter Sunday tornadoes, the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic and its impact on underserved communities as well as the high number of deaths in Mississippi prisons, a welfare embezzlement scandal and the arrival of Deion Sanders as Jackson State University’s new head football coach.
“We’re thrilled to have someone with Mary’s journalistic background, commitment to community and relentless focus on evolving our business as the next editor of the Courier Journal,” said Amalie Nash, senior vice president for local news for the USA TODAY Network. “Never has local news been more important, and we know Mary will work tirelessly to ensure the Louisville community and state of Kentucky benefit from the kind of high-caliber accountability journalism that is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Midwest Regional Editor Katrice Hardy, whose region includes the Courier Journal, said Tuesday that Irby-Jones has been a strategic and transformational leader with a specific focus on local communities.
“Her time in Mississippi is also another example of how she understands the critical and unique role that news organizations provide to their communities,” Hardy said. “She immediately reached out to communities we’d ignored and never once let resources be an excuse but saw it as an opportunity to do great work.
“I’m looking forward to working more closely with Mary and to continuing to read more of the remarkable journalism that the Courier Journal is known for.”
At the Courier Journal, Irby-Jones replaces Rick Green, who took a buyout offered by the company in the fall. Under Green’s leadership, the newspaper won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of hundreds of pardons made by former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in the waning days of his term.