In our annual call for nominations for our Publisher of the Year, we announced we were searching for “a successful newspaper leader” that could “strategize from the trenches with practicality and realism, but think with foresight and imagination.” This year, we received nearly 70 nominations filled with stories of men and women successfully moving the industry forward while operating from the frontlines. They all recognize the unpredictable nature their staff has to work in, but they haven’t lost sight of the importance of journalism. In today’s media world, a publisher not only has to understand the current climate of the news business, they have to be able to stay one step ahead.
Dan Shea, publisher of the New Orleans Advocate, was recognized for a number of things, including doubling circulation and growing web traffic by 250 percent. He also purchased four weekly newspapers, launched three more, and upgraded the paper’s production facility. “Dan was the chief architect to build a team of seasoned journalists, launch new weekly newspapers, and cultivate loyal key advertisers by merging true journalistic standards with the development of an effective digital platform,” wrote Advocate owner John D. Georges.
Sarasota Herald-Tribune publisher Patrick Dorsey was described as a “Renaissance man” by human resources director Danielle Brown in her nomination. “Dorsey…is one of those rare publishers who knows how to drive results, to embrace opportunities and to invest in the community while maintaining an unwavering commitment to local journalism,” she wrote.
As president and publisher of Southern California News Group, Ron Hasse oversees a portfolio of 11 daily newspapers and websites, community weekly papers, monthly magazines, Spanish-language media and social media sites. Communications director Eric Morgan wrote, “He was instrumental in securing a successful bid for Freedom Communications on behalf of parent Digital First Media in April 2016, which expanded the audience footprint and geographic reach of the former Los Angeles News Group.”
San Antonio Express-News publisher Susan Pape was praised for achieving a healthy profit without any buyouts or layoffs. According to executive vice president of marketing and advertising Ray McCutcheon, Pape used the existing sports staff to produce a TV show and magazine. “Not only did it work journalistically, but advertising was able to sell against sports coverage on multiple platforms,” he wrote.
These are just a few examples of publishers who are achieving successful milestones at their publications. It doesn’t matter how big or small, each accomplishment should be celebrated.
And there’s much to be celebrated at the San Francisco Chronicle, home to our 2017 Publisher of the Year Jeff Johnson. Since he became publisher of the Chronicle in 2013, Johnson has been instrumental in helping the Hearst-owned newspaper drive growth in revenue and audience numbers. While speaking with Johnson for the story, his passion for the industry was obvious. He understands the industry battles (he’s been through some himself), but he gave credit to his leadership team for helping him promote a newsroom culture focused on innovation and transformation. Called a “change agent” by his peers, Johnson is a successful newspaper leader staying one step ahead.
This month’s issue also highlights the state of political journalism a year after Donald Trump was elected president (the story will be posted online Nov. 6). We felt it was important to take a look back at what lessons were learned and see where we’re heading. Reporting the truth and checking facts is now more important than ever. But as the last election taught us, we cannot predict everything. Not only has the White House staff had to deal with a “revolving door,” media organizations have had to adapt to constant change as well.
That’s why we need successful, inspiring leaders like the publishers mentioned in this column—and the countless other publishers around the world who are working tirelessly to promote truth and freedom of press.