Watson Steps Down as Head of Gannett’s Newspaper Division

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By: E&P Staff

Gannett announced Friday that Gary Watson, president of the newspaper division, is stepping down. His retirement marks the end of a 39-year career with Gannett.

Susan Clark-Johnson has been named president of the newspaper division to succeed Watson. According to the company, she is the first woman to head Gannett’s newspaper division.

Clark-Johnson was senior group president of the Gannett Pacific Newspaper Group — Gannett’s largest regional group — and chairman, CEO and publisher of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. Her successor will be named later.

“It’s always a shock, even if you expect it,” said Tara Connell, vice president of corporate communications, about Watson’s decision.

“It’s been an incredible run with a great company,” Watson, 60, said in a statement. “It’s been my privilege to work with 37,000 professionals who clearly understand the meaning of service to our readers and advertisers. To each of these friends and colleagues, let me say thank you.”

After a vacation in Europe, Watson will help with the transition, Connell said.

“Gary Watson was a success throughout his career in whatever role he served Gannett, from entry level reporter to publisher to president of our Newspaper Division,” Craig A. Dubow, president and chief executive officer of Gannett, said in a statement. “First and foremost, Gary has always had the heart of a journalist. He has been a strong leader, not only at Gannett, but also within the nation’s newspaper industry. He was in large part responsible for many of the leading-edge strategic and tactical initiatives at Gannett during his time with us. Gary will be missed. We wish him all the best.”

Watson began his newspaper career as a carrier for his hometown newspaper, the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star, where he later served as a news intern, reporter, political editor and city editor in the 1970s. He also held editor positions at The Idaho Statesman in Boise and the Springfield (Mo.) News Leader.

In 1981, he returned to Rockford to become president and publisher of the Register Star. In 1984 and 1985, he was president and publisher of the Cincinnati Enquirer and president of the Central Newspaper Group.

In late 1985, he joined the corporate staff as president of the community newspaper division. He became president of the newspaper division in 1990.

Dubow said in a statement about Clark-Johnson: “We are absolutely delighted that Gannett has an executive with Sue’s experience, management talents and leadership qualities ready to serve as president of our largest division. Sue has tremendous experience in every aspect of the newspaper business. She not only is a talented manager of very complex and far-flung operations, but she is a gifted strategist and visionary. Sue is an ideal executive to help lead Gannett into our new digital information age.”

Clark-Johnson, 58, began her career in 1967 as a reporter at Gannett’s Niagara Gazette, in Niagara Falls, NY. She rose rapidly through the editorial ranks and in 1977 was named publisher of the newspaper.

In 1983, she was promoted to publisher of the Binghamton Sun Bulletin and a year later added the responsibility as regional vice president of Gannett’s East region. She became senior group president of Gannett’s West region in 1985. In 2000, she was named Chairman and CEO of The Arizona Republic and senior group president of the Pacific Region.

“Taking the helm of the Newspaper Division at this moment in time is not only exciting and challenging but also humbling,” said Clark-Johnson in a statement. “There are very talented and innovative people in the division, which I believe is the best in the industry. I’m very much looking forward to working more closely with my colleagues, and becoming part of the team that will lead Gannett into the future.”

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