By: Joe Strupp
When McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt becomes chairman of the Newspaper Association of America during its annual April convention, most of his newspapers’ publishers and editors will not be there.
And that’s fine with him.
As McClatchy, and most other newspaper companies, face economic cutbacks, Pruitt says he has informed top executives at his 31 daily papers not to feel obligated to attend just to see him take over NAA. “I would prefer they make the wise decision due to economic conditions,” Pruitt told E&P late Thursday. “The vast majority are not attending, it is a larger percentage than usual.”
The NAA conference is being combined with the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention and NEXPO this year. The Washington, D.C., event is set for April 12-16.
“I know from early research there are not a lot [of McClatchy newspapers] going this year,” Pruitt said. “I think it is because of the economic pressures.”
Pruitt said McClatchy conducted an informal survey of editors and publishers to see how many were planning to go, with the message that they should make the decision unrelated to his NAA leadership ascension.
“I didn?t want people feeling they had to attend just because I was going to be chair at the end of the convention,” Pruitt said, adding that he did not direct anyone to stay away. “We leave it up to the local publishers and editors to decide. The vast majority are opting not to attend because of the challenging operating environment.”
Several McClatchy newspaper leaders told E&P they had opted out of the conference, with many citing economic belt-tightening.
“My business is struggling like everyone else and it is prudent to stay away,” said Orage Quarles, publisher of The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., and himself a former NAA chairman. “I am asking everyone in their operations to cut back so I also have to set that example.”
He said N&O Editor John Drescher is also passing up ASNE.
“It is not something we are going to,” Bob Heisse, executive editor of the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., said about ASNE. “That is not really on my agenda.”
At the Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader, Publisher Timothy Kelly said he and Editor Lynda Austin were both declining. “I have been curtailing my own travel for years, so this is nothing new,” Kelly said. “If there is going to be travel, I would rather it be for coverage.”
NAA spokeswoman Sheila Owens said it was too early to tell if the convention was likely to see a major attendance drop due to economic conditions “Right now, it is pretty preliminary,” she added.
Pruitt said he will be unaffected by the attendance of McClatchy papers. “It is not important to me,” he added, noting, “I will be the stealth chairman. What is important to me is that McClatchy does well and NAA does well.”