South Whidbey Record loses one editor, gains another

It’s back to the future as the former editor of the South Whidbey Record returns and the current editor leaves the island for a new opportunity.

Brian Kelly, editor of the South Whidbey Record for the past seven years, is leaving at the end of next week to take another position with Sound Publishing.

Kelly has been named editor of the Bainbridge Island Review, a weekly newspaper with a long history in a competitive market.

“This is a great opportunity for Brian and we are happy to keep him in the Sound Publishing family,” said Marcia Van Dyke, publisher of the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey News-Times.

A familiar face to many South Whidbey residents will replace Kelly. Jim Larsen, who for the past two years has held the title of supervising editor of both the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record, will take over as editor of the South Whidbey Record, a job he held for 20 years before moving to the North Whidbey paper in 2001.

“We’re thrilled to have Jim Larsen back on South Whidbey where he knows the people, the territory and the issues,” Van Dyke said.

Larsen said he will take a more hands-on approach with his new job title at the Record, while he remains editor of the Whidbey News-Times as well.

Both papers now share a building in Coupeville, and Larsen said the talented and experienced news staff will make the transition easier.

South Whidbey Record readers will see a new byline in the paper. Justin Burnett will cover Langley city government, which is where Kelly spent much of his time as a reporter.

For the past two years, Burnett has been covering Oak Harbor city government, and prior to that he covered Coupeville for another paper.

“Justin has won many awards for his thorough reporting of city government,” Larsen said. “He’ll have no trouble picking up where Brian left off in Langley.”

Burnett’s other beat will be Island County government, where he will be covering stories for both the Record and News-Times. Stories of general interest will run in both papers, while stories of particular interest to South Whidbey will run in the Record.

Record readers will also be seeing more stories written by veteran reporter and assistant editor Jessie Stensland, who will cover crime and court stories for both papers. Meanwhile, she will take over for Burnett in covering Oak Harbor, a beat she has covered in the past.

Remaining with the Record are Patricia Duff, Island Life editor who covers the important arts and entertainment beat on South Whidbey while also writing features and other stories. Ben Watanabe will still be reporting sports, school district news and other assignments.

“With Ben and Patricia helping, we expect a smooth transition as Brian leaves,” Larsen said.

Kelly’s first day as editor of the Bainbridge Island Review is March 5.

During the last four years of his tenure, the Record won more than 75 state and national journalism awards, including “General Excellence” honors from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association in 2011. The publication also earned recognition as a “Newspaper of the Year” for being one of the top newspapers for its size in the United States and Canada in 2008.

“It’s been an honor to work with such a talented team,” Kelly said.

“Everyone — the writers, artists, the folks in the front office, advertising, the carriers — they’ve been top-notch,” he said.

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