Hawes Spencer, the 48-year-old journalist who’s been covering weekly Charlottesville news for 23 years, has resigned from his post as editor-in-chief of The Hook, effective January 1. Spencer has also agreed to sell his ownership stake back to the Charlottesville Publishing Group, which owns The Hook’s parent company, Better Publications, and C-VILLE Weekly’s parent company C-VILLE Holdings. Senior Editor Courteney Stuart will replace Spencer as editor-in-chief of The Hook.
Spencer announced the move in a letter published in The Hook’s 2012 Year in Review issue, which hit stands today.
“The timing is right for me to make the move for personal and professional reasons,” he wrote. “And unlike my last newspaper departure nearly 11 years ago, this one is a planned transition.”
Spencer founded The Hook on February 7, 2002, after an acrimonious split with fellow C-VILLE Weekly owners Bill Chapman and Rob Jiranek.
He described the experience of running his own newspaper as “the opportunity of a lifetime,” and said he couldn’t have asked for a better 11 years in the business.
“I have been given the extreme and rare privilege of running a newspaper exactly the way I wanted to run it, with no constraints or interference from anyone but the reading public,” he said.
As editor-in-chief, Spencer said any failure or shortcoming on The Hook’s part has fallen at his feet, but he has very few regrets.
“I regret every time I made a factual error. I’m sure I’ve made hundreds over the years, even if just the spelling of someone’s name,” he said. “And I regret any story that might have been unfair.”
Despite the doom and gloom heard around the journalism industry, Spencer said weekly papers like The Hook still occupy a great role in the marketplace. Because his paper is still profitable and he’s itching to move on to something new, Spencer said now seems like the right time to cash in his chips.
“I was in serious danger of growing moss on my backside,” he said. “I’m just glad that everybody saw things the way I did and saw this as an opportunity to make a change in a really friendly and orderly fashion.”
As for his immediate plans, Spencer said he’s looking forward to taking a vacation longer than eight days for the first time in years, and he’ll cross the job-hunting bridge when he gets to it. He’ll likely continue as an independent writer, whether locally, regionally, or nationally.
“I might start a blog—but I might start an oceanography institute,” he joked. “I don’t really have a skill set beyond journalism, so my hunch is that I will, with near 100 percent certainty, stay in some form of journalism.”