From 'Who's Who' To Who's He? p. 17

By: DOROTHY GIOBBE GEORGE WILSON LAUGHS when asked what he's been up to since his tenure expired as chairman of the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
"I guess it's like my friend Richard J.V. Johnson said ? you go from 'Who's Who' to who's he?" Wilson said.
Wilson, publisher of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, is being waggish, of course. Far from fading into obscurity, the former chairman of the ANPA (1987 to 1988) has made a point of staying involved with the newspaper industry.
As has William C. Marcil, publisher of the Fargo, N.D.-Moorehead, Minn., Forum and president of the Willmar, Minn., West Central Tribune. Marcil served as chairman of the ANPA from 1982 to 1984.
Johnson, chairman and publisher of the Houston Chronicle, held the reins of the ANPA from 1984 to 1986. As the last two-year chairman, he chuckles that "there are some who will say, 'See, look what Johnson did to the chairmanship of the ANPA.' "
All three chairmen served the ANPA, since renamed the Newspaper Association of America, as representatives from independent-, medium-, and small-circulation newspapers. At the time of Johnson's stewardship, the Chronicle, now a Hearst newspaper, was independently owned by the Houston Endowment.
The Forum has a weekday circulation of 55,000; the West Central Tribune tops 17,000; and the Monitor reaches 22,000 Monday through Saturday.
All three characterize their leadership terms as extremely fulfilling, affording them the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at all levels on challenges facing the industry.
And, the former chairmen said, the most pressing issues that faced the industry 15 years ago ? namely telecommunications and postal rates ? haven't changed.
"Then, it was the breakup of AT&T," Marcil said. "Now, it's all coming around again with the Baby Bells merging together."
"I see no change in [the Postal Commission's] stand on the issues, and its relationship with direct mailers is as close as ever," Wilson said.
Johnson agreed. "It's a hell of a problem. The post office is determined to get into business of privatizing information delivery and they are one of our greatest competitors."
The explosion of technology and the implications for communications, they said, is an area in which newspaper companies must continue to vigorously invest and compete.
The development of technology, Marcil said, "is a completely different animal than I envisioned it 10 or 12 years ago. It's more sophisticated and the technology has advanced rapidly. However, they have not developed user-friendly newspapers to this point."
In fact, Marcil said, current forms of electronic newspapers are "basically for nerds."
Despite fragmentation and increasing pressure from other media, Wilson believes the quality of newspaper journalism is "head and shoulders" above other outlets where "anybody's half-baked idea" is lent credibility.
"When you compare that with newspapers' careful editing and reporting, we find ourselves in a very good position," Wilson said. "Fortunately, we've never lost sight of our basic function."
Press freedom issues are a perennial concern for newspaper organizations. Johnson said the most important battles often are fought on home turf, rather than in Washington, D.C.
"We are fighting Freedom of Information and First Amendment issues city by city, judge by judge, federal bureaucracy by federal bureaucracy," he said.
"This isn't something we have to worry about with the Supreme Court so much ? the real fight comes statewide and locally," Johnson added.
Marcil encouraged other small- and medium-circulation newspapers to stay involved with NAA.
"Don't be intimidated by the larger groups. Publishers from small newspapers can have as much knowledge as publishers of large newspapers do," he said. "The small- and medium-sized papers have a voice that needs to be heard. Get involved in the committees and work your way through."
?(Former ANPA (now NAA) chairmen (from left) William Marcil, George Wilson and Richard J.V. Johnson say the most pressing issues that faced
the industry 15 years ago ? namely telecommunications and postal rates ? haven't changed.) [Photo & Caption]
?(I think the temptation is to take individual circumstaces and build them into a trend, but the only fundamental trend you're seeing now is clustering, or buying adjacent properties." ) [Caption]
?(Christopher Shaw, founding partner in the newly formed investment firm Sextant Partners who orchestrated some of the biggest newspaper deals in the 1980s as head of Henry Ansbacher Inc.) [Photo & Caption]


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