Washington Star Publisher Joe L. Allbritton yesterday began a long-awaited reorganization of the top of newspaper's editorial staff, naming veteran journalist Sidney Epstein as executive editor.
But two other appointments expected yesterday were-not made in what several Star staff members and other sources described as a conflict of personalities among the individuals involved.
Reportedly, meetings and conversations lasted until the morning hours yesterday over "other planned appointments" that were not included in the story in yesterday's Star that announced Epstein's selection.
In yesterday's Star, Allbritton was quoted as saying of Epstein:
"His experience and talent will give The Star the quality of imaginative top-level leadership it needs to provide increasing excellence in news coverage for residents of the Washington metropolitan area.
Epstein will be in charge of all news and feature perations of The Star.
Sources said Allbritton and Epstein had agreed in the appointments of David Burgin as day managing editor and Philip Evans as night managing editor of the newspaper, until Evans reportedly objected and said he did not want to share responsibilities with Burgin in that manner.
Because of what was described as a "revolt" that involved objections about Burgin by other Star editors, the additional appointments were not announced.
"Everything is up in the air, in the rumor stage," said one source.
Burgin, currently editor of Allbritton's Pateson, N.J., News, could not be reached for comment last night. A News staff member said he had "gone to Washington."
Evans, the Star's assistant managing editor for night news, said: "I can't say anything about that at all."
A call to Epstein was returned by assistant managing editor and ombudsman George Beveridge, who said the new executive editor would have nothing to say beyond what was printed in The Star. Beveridge added that an announcement of a successor to Epstein as managing editor would be "made in due course."
Burgin was sports editor of the former Washington Daily News and the San Francisco Examiner before joining The Star in 1971. There, he was sports editor, city editor and assistant managing editor for sports coverage before moving to Paterson last year.
"He creates a lot of enemies . . . He is a very controversial, forceful, talented - given to splash - newspaperman . . . His personality created both admirers and detractors in the newsroom," one source said of Burgin.
Eptein is a native of Washington who began his newspaper career in 1937 as a copy boy with the former Washington Herald. After the World War II service in the Marine Corps, he rejoined the paper (by then the Washington Times-Herald) and was city editor in 1954 when the Times-Herald was acquired by The Washington Post.
Subsequently, Epstein moved to The Star. He became city editor and, in 1968, was named assistant managing editor. He has been managing editor under Allbritton for the last 3 1/2 years and his wife, Eleni Epstein, is The Star's fashion editor.
When James G. Bellows resigned as Star editor last November, to become editor of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Allbritton placed The Star's news department under Epstein's direction on an interim basis.
Although there have been rumors about a search for a successor to Bellows, Allbritton told a meeting of editors here last week tht he had not looked outside The Star's building and Epstein's appointment seemed certain.
Allbritton's editorial appointment yesterday follows significant changes on the business side of the newspaper, since Times, Inc. completed its acquisition of The Star on March 15.
In steps that have solidified management leadership by long-time Star executives, Allbritton fired James Smith as the newspaper's president after he had held the job for only 10 months. Also departing were circulation vice president James Bonneau and advertising vice president Charles Treat, both selected by Smith.
Smith, former general manager of the Sacramento Bee, has not been replaced.
Allbritton named two veterans to the other posts, however. Former circulation director William Merritt returned as circulation chief, and former Star advertising director Jack Schoo was renamed to that position.
In another appointment, Allbritton named Wayne Gray as controller of the newspaper. Gray had been controller of Washington Star Communications Inc., a company that owns Allbritton's television and newspaper properties, since last year.
Financial figures on The Star's profitability have not been published recently. But Allbritton said last November that the newspaper was making a small monthly profit compared with steep losses when he purchased the paper four years earlier.
In the first two months of 1978. The Star's share of advertising compared with that of The Washington Post has declined to 27.7 percent from 31.8 percent in the same period last year.
Under the acquisition agreement with Time, Allbriton is to remain as Star publisher and chief executive for five years and Time officials have said appointments at the paper are the responsibility of Allbritton.
Time also held its annual meeting of stockholders in New York yesterday, at which chairman Andrew Heiskell was asked why the magazine firm had purchased the Washington daily. (See separate story on Page E1.)
"We thought it was a good market and a growing market and we thought we could make a go of it," he replied. Added president James R. Shepley: "Washington is a prosperous metropolitan market, one which needs and can well support two newspapers."
Since TIme has owned The Star for only a month, Heiskell suggested that questions about plans for the newspaper would have to wait for next year. Time paid $20 million in cash for The Star and assumed the newspaper building's mortgage.
Several Star editors have met with Time editorial executives in recent weeks. But Allbritton told the newspaper editors last week that any steps to tap the editorial resources of Time would come only gradually.