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Salazar leaving Optic post

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By Art Trujillo

Martin Salazar, who has been at the helm of the Las Vegas Optic for the last four years, has resigned his position as editor and publisher to accept a job at the Albuquerque Journal.

Salazar’s resignation was effective today. Landmark Community Newspapers Inc., the Optic’s parent company, has announced that Optic sports editor Dave Kavanaugh will serve as interim editor until a permanent replacement for Salazar is selected.

The newspaper’s staff was informed of Salazar’s impending departure in January.

“Leading my hometown newspaper for the last four years has been a tremendous honor and a wonderful experience,” Salazar said. “But juggling the Optic’s business operations and my editing responsibilities hasn’t left much time for me to report and write, which is my passion. When the opportunity to return to the Journal as a reporter arose, I couldn’t pass it up.”

At the Journal, Salazar will be covering Albuquerque City Hall and Bernalillo County.

Salazar resigned his position as president of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government earlier this month, but he plans to serve out the remaining eight months of his term on the New Mexico Press Association’s Board of Directors. He serves on the Press Association’s executive committee as past president.

Salazar, a Las Vegas native, previously worked at the Optic from 2000 to 2003 as a reporter. He returned to the Optic as managing editor in 2011 and was named interim editor and general manager in 2013 after former Optic editor and publisher Tom McDonald announced his resignation. Salazar was promoted to editor and publisher in 2014.

The Optic marked several milestones during Salazar’s tenure as interim general manager and later as publisher.

One of the changes was a shift in the Optic’s publishing schedule, with the elimination of the Monday edition and the launch of a Sunday paper.

Another major change was shifting the newspaper’s place of printing to Los Alamos. The Optic’s sister publication, the Los Alamos Monitor, currently prints the Optic. The aging rotary press was in need of upgrades, and the management of the newspaper found it more feasible to transfer the printing to Los Alamos.

Perhaps the biggest change, however, was the recent move of the Optic’s offices from its longtime home on Lincoln Avenue to leased space at 720 University Avenue.

The move was prompted by the age and condition of the Lincoln Avenue building, which had housed the Optic for more than a century. Salazar spearheaded the move over the last four weeks.

Among the accomplishments Salazar said he is most proud of is the host of awards the staff has received over the last few years, including two national honors.  

The Optic earned a second place award for investigative reporting in the Inland Newsroom and Digital Journalism Contest for a series of stories about a former Public Education Department bureau chief who faked his credentials to qualify for administrative positions at two area school districts. That former PED official, Charles Trujillo, is awaiting trial on multiple felony counts of fraud and forgery. Salazar and Optic features editor Mercy López broke the story.

The Optic’s series of stories on Trujillo also won the Public Service Award and Investigative Reporting Award from the New Mexico Press Association and the Community Service award in the Landmark Community Newspapers Inc. News Editorial Contest last year.

Salazar also won third place in the Inland contest for editorials.

The judges wrote, “The Las Vegas Optic’s series of editorials shows an excellent cross-section of topics. The (editorial) board is not afraid to champion opinions that may not be agreeable to many readers, and they do so with convincing arguments.”

Kavanaugh has served in various capacities with the Optic, including as managing editor.

“We have a small but committed team, and we look forward to continuing a proud tradition of serving our readers,” Kavanaugh said. “Martin has been integral in elevating the quality of journalism at the Optic since he first started here back in 2000. We’re grateful for his work, and we want to maintain the quality for years to come.

“These are challenging times, but I believe a reliable source for news and information can serve as a lighthouse on a stormy sea. It’s our goal, at least,” Kavanaugh added.