(Updated 8:48 p.m.) Responsible for much of the Hartford Courant’s new look both Editor Cliff Teutsch and Managing Editor Bobbie Roessner will be leaving the newspaper tomorrow.

The letter below was emailed to staff this afternoon by Jeff Levine, the new senior vice president and director of content for the Courant’s combined business operations. Below that is Teutsch’s letter to staff explaining his departure, followed by Roessner’s.

Cliff Teutsch and Bobbie Roessner will be leaving the Hartford Courant, effective tomorrow. Cliff and Bobbie have been guiding forces here at The Courant for more than two decades. I have known both of them for several years and have always been impressed with their passion for quality journalism. Their record of accomplishments speaks for itself.

Cliff began his journalism career with The Courant in 1980 as a reporter in the Willimantic Bureau. Over the years, he has held a number of reporting and editor positions with the company, culminating with a promotion to editor and vice president in 2006. Under Cliff’s leadership, the news room broke the investigative series, “Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight,” asserting that the military was increasingly sending, keeping and redeploying mentally ill soldiers into combat in violation of its own policies and mandates from Congress. Because of the report, legislation was later passed to help address the flaws in the military’s mental health system.

Bobbie began her long and successful career with the company in 1978 as a reporter and has held several positions including associate editor, deputy managing editor and most recently, managing editor. In 2004, she completed a Knight Fellowship in Journalism at Stanford University. Last year, Bobbie oversaw the redesign of the newspaper giving it a new look, new sections and more than 40 new features, all with a stronger emphasis on Connecticut news. 

Naedine Hazell has accepted the enormous responsibility of becoming interim editor. In the short time I have known Naedine, I have been very impressed with the contributions she has made and continues to make to the company. Many folks have told me of the excellent work she has done in her two months leading our digital efforts. The recent gains in online traffic bear that out. The Hartford Courant’s website, courant.com, continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. In March 2009, courant.com had 2.4 million unique users and over 23 million page impressions – a 20% increase over March 2008. Additionally, her depth of knowledge, versatility and strong sense of vision will allow us to maintain the extraordinary level of quality that Courant readers have come to expect from us, while we rapidly work to develop the newsroom of the future.

The past year has brought extraordinary change to our company, and the speed of transformation is likely to continue, even accelerate over the coming months. Recently, the focus has been on reducing costs in order to keep The Courant from falling into the red. We still will continue to effectively manage costs; however, the predominant changes over the coming months will focus on the positive – rebuilding our organization in order to meet the ever-morphing needs of our readers and audiences. We will work diligently to establish the best structure to channel our passions and work in order to expand our content over three platforms – print, online and television.

I know you will want to show your appreciation for the immeasurable contributions Cliff and Bobbie have made to the Hartford Courant. Please also join me in offering support to Naedine as she takes on her new role, working with all of us to preserve and develop the important place this institution plays in Connecticut life.

I realize you will have many questions and be looking for more information on these changes. Naedine and I will hold a short meeting on the newsroom floor at 5:15 p.m. this afternoon.

Cliff Teutsch Explains His Departure to Staff

I wanted to explain my thinking about leaving.

The editor’s job just doesn’t fit me anymore the way it needs to. Important work demands to be done here by an editor who is in synch with those above him. My best assessment is I’m not that editor. Jeff asked me to stick around for several weeks while we decided whether the fit was right; leaving now is my call.

Please don’t let my decision guide you. If I were a reporter in a beat I was happy with, I wouldn’t even think about leaving The Courant. This is one of the great places to do journalism. Why? Because you and your predecessors over 244 years have made it so. Because literate, committed readers make it so.

A few of you remember that I once actually was a reporter in a beat I was happy with. When I started covering state government in 1981, I got some wise advice from a veteran reporter. He told me to get to know the state auditors – and from them I got story after story. I mention this because that reporter was George Gombossy. And I mention that because what George and I have gone through should provide hope to any of you who are shaken today. George was already a great reporter then, a hero to me, and he went on to dig up big story after big story. I moved on through a series of editing jobs. Eventually I had one big enough that I was George’s boss, and I pushed him out of a job because I thought it wasn’t the best fit. But within a very short time George took control, seizing the opportunity to become a consumer reporter. His work as our “Watchdog” has been the model for the aggressive, locally-based, useful coverage you must continue. “Life is long,” a former editor of ours was fond of saying. Life is also manufactured daily – and George can be your guide in doing that.

I hope to talk with as many of you as possible before I leave, and let the rest of you who are so inclined buy me a coffee or some other suitable beverage sometime after my departure. Beyond that, my plans are to stain my deck and walk up and down a favorite beach many times. Then I’ll start to think about what comes next.

Whatever and wherever that is, my heart will be with you and what you do.

With the deepest respect, appreciation and affection,