Washington Press Club Foundation


Born on March 14, 1945 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Tonnie Katz now works on the opposite coast in a climate and surroundings that could not be more different from where she started. She grew up in tradition-bound Lowell, in a family that was firmly established in the community. Today, as editor of the Orange County Register, published in Santa Ana, Katz is part of the moving mixture of out-of-state residents that make up California's Orange County. Most of the people in her readership, like Tonnie Katz, are transplants from other parts of the country.

Educated in private school, Katz graduated from Barnard and Columbia. She spent several summers working at the Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun. Her mother helped her get the job. Since then, says Katz, she has never needed a résumé because people have always recruited her; she has not had to look for work. Today, Katz is the country's highest ranking woman in newspaper management for a newspaper of the Register's size.

Besides her first newspaper job at the Sun, Katz has worked at the Quincy (Massachusetts) Patriot-Ledger, the Boston Herald, the Baltimore News-American, the San Bernardino Sun, and the Register. She has been in management since her job as metropolitan editor at the Herald.

Today, at the Register, Katz is in the middle of one of the nation's most experimental newsrooms. Under editor Chris Anderson's leadership, the management at the Register launched several innovative programs, aimed at adjusting to the newspaper's changing audience. Anderson hired Katz, and she plans to continue in Anderson's tradition, emphasizing diversity in the newsroom and innovation in the pages of the newspaper. The Orange County Register looms large in the Los Angeles area landscape, successfully challenging the Los Angeles Times for readers in a very competitive market.

The atmosphere surrounding Katz now is quite different from her days at the News-American, a tradition-bound paper that could have been the set for the movie "The Front Page." Here is how Katz described the atmosphere at the News-American when she worked there:

The place was painted in this—you know that toilet green? And orange. Because they had gotten the paint cheap, and the person who chose it was colorblind. The floor was patched with different pieces of linoleum. The windows hadn't been cleaned in a hundred years, I bet, and there were stacks of newspapers against the windows. I often thought that one day one newspaper too many would just crash through, and the whole ton of clutter would fall on some pedestrian. I mean, it was the grungiest place.

Today, Katz works in the Register's sparkling multi-story modern building in the middle of Southern California's fast-growing Orange County. The building's architecture speaks to the newspaper's presence and its innovation. Katz says she welcomes the chance to be a part of today's newspapers.

We're going to set the changes for the next fifty years right now in what we're doing...So it's real exciting. It's never boring. I have never had a day that I didn't want to go to work or a day that was boring...They're always fun—always.

Shirley Biagi
December 20, 1993

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