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Could the changeup at the E-N signal more consolidation with the Houston Chron?

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Rivard’s tenure at the E-N will likely be remembered with mixed emotions. He’s been a staple of San Antonio journalism for nearly two decades, and some will remember him as a staunch protectionist in recent years, working to keep newsroom production jobs in San Antonio and fighting to stem further consolidation with the Chronicle, a process that started inching forward two years ago.

But he’ll be remembered by others for pieces he wouldn’t run. Todd Bensman, a former E-N reporter who left in 2009, remembered Rivard bristling when controversial stories hit too close to City Hall, particularly when they angered City Manager Sheryl Sculley. After uncovering a city playground-inspection scandal in the spring of 2008, Bensman recalled a lot of irritation in the newsroom, particularly with Rivard. The story set the stage for a “super abundance of caution over anything that was critical of Sculley or the mayor,” Bensman said over the phone last week. In that climate, another of Bensman’s pieces, regarding another juicy City Hall scandal, was quashed, he said.

Bensman said Rivard’s actions created a chill over City Hall coverage – he recalled a new mandate that Rivard pre-approve all public-records requests to City Hall, something Rivard has, in the past, denied. For whatever reason, Bensman said, City Hall, particularly Sculley, was one of Rivard’s blind-spots, adding, “[Sculley]’s probably trembling in her high-heeled shoes right now.”

Still, Bensman noted that he and others will also remember Rivard as an editor who supported high-profile enterprise others might have tossed aside as too costly or time consuming. Under Rivard, Bensman was sent to Central America and the Middle East for hard-hitting features. “I think everyone would say that the whole Sculley thing, though, that was an aberration. … If you look at him from 300,000 feet up, he really facilitated a lot of good journalism.” •

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