Roll Call Culture Disquieted by Editor’s Departure

Suffice it to say that CQ-Roll Editorial Director Mike Mills is having a “tough day.” As we’ve been reporting today, Roll Call‘s Editor Charlie Mitchell has resigned. In the past hour, top brass has met with a fiery staff who isn’t ready to let their leader go. In fact, this has been a shock – few, if any, knew this was coming.

“We’re all going to miss Charlie,” Mills told FishbowlDC in a phone interview. “He has been a terrific steward of Roll Call‘s mission and its values and the staff holds him in very high regard.”

That’s putting it mildly. At the internal meeting today, there were tears and anger – and applause so lengthy that it was fitting for a U.S. President. “People did not know this was coming,” Mills said. “I guess  they were surprised, yeah.”

Mills explains the departure as “inevitable” but  not without regret. “Charlie and I concluded together that we need fresh leadership at the top to help Roll Call continue its leadership position as the must-read publication on Capitol Hill, ” he said. “I think that’s the best way to put it.”

In the year and a half that they worked together, Mills said he and Mitchell, who arrived to Roll Call in 2006 and became editor in 2007,  “accomplished a hell of a lot.” But he added, “I think along the way, changes I think we both saw were necessary were not happening fast enough. What I need is a change agent from the outside who can build on what Charlie and I have accomplished so far.”

But the staff doesn’t agree…

“I understand the reaction of many on the staff,” said Mills. “Everybody loves Charlie. I don’t think anybody wants to see him leave. This is a very loyal newsroom and people love Charlie and this is a big hit and I understand that. I appreciate their sentiment.”

Mills called today’s meeting with Mitchell and staff “full” and “frank.” He remarked, “They are  journalists. They asked tough questions and they let me know how they feel. There were tears and there was also sustained applause for Charlie that might even have succeeded what a president gets at the State of the Union.”

In the meeting, Mitchell explained the situation to staff himself. “I think he and the other senior editors are doing the best to help everyone through this,” Mills said. “You know, change is so difficult. It is so hard, it is so difficult to change a newsroom and to persuade them that you love what they do and you want them to do it even better.”