Observer names veteran journalist as its new managing editor

Taylor Batten
Taylor Batten jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

A veteran journalist at The Charlotte Observer, Taylor Batten, has been named its new managing editor.

Batten, 50, has spent his 24-year career at the Observer, most recently as editor of its opinion pages for the past 11 years. He will now be the No. 2 editor in a newsroom that has transitioned from print to digital platforms.

“Taylor has a strong understanding of the opportunities ahead for us to build our readership — audience growth built on relevant, compelling journalism that our community will find only in The Charlotte Observer,” Executive Editor Sherry Chisenhall said in announcing the appointment to the newsroom Friday. “He’s also excited about helping the newsroom break exclusive news, develop strong talent in our room and learn and thrive as a digital news organization.”

Batten’s roots at the Observer run deep. His father, the late James Batten, was a former Observer executive editor in the 1970s who rose to become chairman of Knight Ridder, the media chain that included the Observer. Sacramento-based McClatchy bought Knight Ridder in 2006.

The Observer is part of a news industry that has undergone dramatic changes since then. Print news outlets have struggled as advertising evaporated and they sought new digital audiences. Waves of layoffs and buyouts of veteran reporters have shrunken the staffs of outlets including the Observer.

Part of Batten’s charge will be to help build the digital subscribers who are viewed as a key to the company’s survival.

“It’s a revolutionary time in the industry and we intend to thrive in the digital age,” he said. “Our newsroom veterans are now being joined by some of the brightest young journalists in the country. I’m excited about the opportunity to help ignite the next, distinguished chapter in the Observer’s history.”

Batten has a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s from Harvard, both in public policy. That grounding in how local and state government works, Chisenhall said, will inform the Observer’s upcoming coverage of the 2020 elections and Charlotte’s hosting of the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Batten started his Observer career as a business reporter, then covered Mecklenburg County, state politics and North Carolina’s General Assembly. He then became editor of the government reporting team, served as front-page editor for four years and led coverage of the 2008 elections.

During his time as opinion page editor, the Observer’s Kevin Siers won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 2014 and Batten won multiple awards for opinion writing, including the Carmage Walls Prize for Commentary from the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and North Carolina Press Association awards.

Batten and his wife, Lauren, have three children: Katie, 17; Lindsay, 16; and James, 12.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.