Mike Dunbar has been named Opinions editor of The Modesto Bee and modbee.com, replacing Judy Sly, who will retire Friday.
Dunbar, who currently is director of integrated operations, is intimately familiar with the Opinions pages, having worked closely with Sly as her associate editor from 2003 to 2008. That five years represented “the best job I ever had” in a journalism career spanning 38 years, he said. “It’s the most fun, the most challenging and the most rewarding.”
He will have primary responsibility for articulating the paper’s formal stance on key issues and challenges in editorials and will oversee letters, political cartoons and columns on editorial pages.
Editor Joe Kieta announced Dunbar’s appointment at a staff meeting last week. He noted that Dunbar captured many awards – including two prestigious Best of the West for editorial writing – during his previous time with the Opinions section and that he has a deep understanding of the region and its issues.
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“I like to think of the Opinions pages as the place where the community can think through and debate important issues in a fair and civil way,” Kieta said. “As Judy retires, Mike is the perfect choice to be steward of these pages. He will continue The Bee’s editorial leadership with strong, thought-provoking editorials on a range of topics that are important to the community.
“I also expect Mike to innovate and to find new ways to reach readers.”
Sly, 61, an Oregon native, came to Modesto in 1973 after a brief stint at The Union Democrat newspaper in Sonora. In her four decades at The Bee, her duties have ranged from education reporter to religion editor, features editor, city editor and columnist. She’s had charge over the Opinions pages for the past 10 years, with a focus on holding local government officials accountable.
“I have lots of ideas and no plans,” Sly said of the retirement ahead. “It’s been a great job. You get to meet a ton of people, being in the stands and watching community life happen.”
She and her husband, Mike Herrero, have two adult sons.
Dunbar, 61, was born in Cleveland and raised in North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. He graduated in 1975 from the University of Kentucky and entered journalism as a sportswriter, moving among newspapers in Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, Virginia and Florida before joining The Record in Stockton and, finally, The Bee.
In his 25 years in Modesto, Dunbar has had responsibility over business, features, health and sports sections and photography and copy editing departments. He has overseen many of The Bee’s production and technology advances, working closely with sister papers and their online products in Sacramento and Merced.
As editor of the Opinions pages, Dunbar will play a key role on The Bee’s editorial board with Kieta and Bee Publisher Eric Johnston, and will work with community columnists and visiting editors.
“There is nothing more you can ask for in a job, to my mind,” Dunbar said, “if you want to do a job that matters.”
He lives in Escalon with his wife, Tammy. They have two adult children: Maggie, a Harvard Law School student, and William, a recent graduate of the University of California at Merced.