Diana Diamond, who for the past year has been executive editor of the six-newspaper Daily News Group, was abruptly terminated Monday.
She was replaced with a new editor, Lucinda Ryan, the former editor of the Alameda Journal.
"I was let go," Diamond confirmed Tuesday to the Palo Alto Weekly.
Staff members of the newspapers were told at a special meeting at 4 p.m. Monday that Diamond was leaving "to pursue other interests," not that she was being terminated.
There was no announcement of the change in Tuesday's Palo Alto Daily News.
Daily News Publisher Shareef Dajani, who was named publisher Jan. 1, told the Weekly Tuesday that Diamond's departure is "basically just a parting of the ways. We both agreed to go our own way; I don't want to comment beyond that."
Diamond, clearly shaken, said the only hint she had was a review last week in which Dajani discussed her objections to recent decisions eliminating the Monday issue of the San Mateo Daily News and moving deadlines forward to conform to San Jose Mercury and Contra Costa Times evening deadlines.
"He graded me not at all on my work as editor, my editorials or columns or the management of the newsrooms," she said in an interview Tuesday morning.
Previous to the termination, "there was not one note, one e-mail or phone message criticizing my work," she said. "I was shocked."
Diamond, who wrote columns for the Palo Alto Daily News since 2000, was named executive editor of the six papers on March 14, 2005.
"I loved them," she said of the papers. "I was passionate about them." She felt her six-day work weeks had resulted in significant improvements in stories and headlines. Prior to last November's election, Diamond spent 79 hours conducting interviews with political candidates and wrote endorsement editorials in 49 different community races, she recalled.
She said the Daily News papers have been hurt, however, by a hiring freeze that kicked in when disgruntled investors of Knight-Ridder -- the second largest newspaper chain in the nation -- forced the company's sale.
Diamond said she has no immediate plans, but will be seeking other employment. Prior to being named executive editor she had a consulting business in writing and graphic design, and earlier had worked for years in various positions at Stanford University and Stanford Hospital. Diamond said she didn't think she'd go back to consulting, at least not right away.
Diamond moved to Chicago after living in Sunnyvale during the 1960s to be managing editor of 49 newspapers in the Lerner Newspapers chain of weeklies and semi-weeklies serving Chicago suburbs. She received a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1978, and moved to Palo Alto. In 1982 she started the California Lawyer Magazine as editor in chief, and then began working at Stanford, holding several positions.
She has four grown sons, and resides in Palo Alto with her husband, Booker.
"I truly, truly believe in community journalism," Diamond said. "It's the glue that holds these communities together." She said it gave her great pleasure to see people walking down the street reading a paper, sometimes almost bumping into trees.
She said the disparate communities covered by the six papers -- Palo Alto, Burlingame, Los Gatos, Redwood City, San Mateo and the East Bay Daily News -- "have a tremendous amount of pluses, but some are really facing problems. I felt it was my obligation as a journalist to point out the problems" as well as the pluses, she said.
Dajani said Diamond's replacement is well qualified. In addition to editing the Alameda Journal for the past five years, she had been city editor of the San Leandro Times and the Hayward Daily Review, and earlier had been a general-assignment reporter for the Tribune in Oakland.
"She has a very strong background in local reporting," Dajani said.