Outgoing Juneau Empire Managing Editor Ben Hohenstatt (left) will be succeeded by reporter Mark Sabbatini (right) after five years to accept a job with the Alaska State Ombudsman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Outgoing Juneau Empire Managing Editor Ben Hohenstatt (left) will be succeeded by reporter Mark Sabbatini (right) after five years to accept a job with the Alaska State Ombudsman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Empire managing editor departs, familiar face takes over role

Ben Hohenstatt departs as managing editor after five years, reporter Mark Sabbatini takes over.

Juneau Empire Managing Editor Ben Hohenstatt is departing after five years with the newspaper to accept a job with the Alaska State Ombudsman.

His departure as of Sunday comes as the Empire is transitioning to a digital-focused model that publishes print issues two times a week instead of five. Mark Sabbatini, a reporter and editor from 1995 to 2006 who rejoined the paper last year, is the new managing editor as of Monday.

Juneau Empire Managing Editor Ben Hohenstatt takes photos at the Juneau Alumni Football game on Friday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Hohenstatt is departing after five years to accept a job with the Alaska State Ombudsman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Juneau Empire Managing Editor Ben Hohenstatt takes photos at the Juneau Alumni Football game on Friday at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Hohenstatt is departing after five years to accept a job with the Alaska State Ombudsman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Hohenstatt joined the Empire in August of 2018 to work for the Capital City Weekly, which was at the time still distributed as a standalone weekly.

“As that changed so did my role with the paper — still writing most of our arts and culture copy, but also assuming some city and state government reporting duties,” he said in a statement Friday.

Hohenstatt was named managing editor in February 2020 and almost immediately the job took on a far more challenging aspect than anticipated.

“Within weeks the COVID-19 pandemic would take hold in the U.S.,” he said. “In addition to that my tenure included navigating a relocation of our editorial and advertising offices (in the spring of 2021) and being at the newsroom’s helm for the last edition of the Empire that will be printed in Juneau for the foreseeable future (in April of this year).”

Among Hohenstatt’s honors are being named to Editor and Publisher’s annual “25 under 35 list,” and winning Alaska Press Club Awards for headline writing, arts and culture reporting and political reporting.

Hohenstatt plans to remain in Juneau, along with his wife, Kim, and dogs, Archie and Buster. He offered favorable thoughts about the Empire’s newsroom and his time with the paper.

“I’m proud of the work that I’ve done in my time with the Empire, and I know that my colleagues will continue to do exceptional work in the vital field of community journalism,” he said. “I’m especially glad to leave something I dedicated a lot of time and effort to in Mark’s exceptionally capable hands.”

He expressed few regrets, aside from now being able to voice everything he’d like to upon his departure.

“How do you say -30- in a quote?” he wrote in his statement.

Sabbatini has been a newspaper reporter and editor for 35 years at newspapers ranging from The Antarctic Sun to the Los Angeles Times, working in more than 60 countries on all seven continents.

Juneau Empire reporter Mark Sabbatini smiles for a photo while reporting in May. Sabbatini is the Empire’s new managing editor as of Monday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Juneau Empire reporter Mark Sabbatini smiles for a photo while reporting in May. Sabbatini is the Empire’s new managing editor as of Monday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

His experience includes more than a decade at the Juneau Empire starting in the mid 1990s, including serving as the Sunday and features editor. He returned to the Empire in the spring of 2022 after spending 13 years as the editor and publisher of Icepeople, an English-language alternative weekly newspaper he founded in the world’s northernmost town of Longyearbyen, Norway.

“I’ve spent a lifetime not taking public relations pitches from politicians and companies at face value, so I’m not making any grand pronouncements since I’d expect nothing less from people who read the Empire,” he said. “Watch what we publish and how we publish it, and judge for yourselves if we’re living up to the potential of what the Empire’s new model can be.”

Sabbatini can be contacted at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907)-957-2306.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

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