Incoming ASNE Exec Director Says Group 'In a Bit of a Crisis'

By: Joe Strupp Richard Karpel, the incoming executive director of the American Society of News Editors, claims his lack of newspaper experience will not impede his ability to lead the group in one of its toughest times in history.

Karpel, 50, who was named to the top executive post Monday, brings some 20 years of experience running associations, most recently the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies.

"It was definitely a hurdle I had to overcome to get the job," Karpel admitted Tuesday of his lack of newspaper history. "I am the fifth executive director of ASNE and I think the other four were all editors. But I think they understand it is time to do something a little different. What they need to do is change quickly."

Among those predecessors was Scott Bosley, who is stepping down at the end of 2009 after 10 years in charge. His newspaper background included stints at the Detroit Free Press and the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal.

Karpel, who headed AAN since 1995 and previously served as a top executive at the Video Software Dealers Association, added: "you wouldn't hire me to edit a newspaper, so why would you hire a newspaper editor to run an association?"

Still, he said he can take his past managerial skills and learn from members about the greatest needs ASNE has, some he already knows about. "ASNE is in a bit of a crisis," he stated. "I think they realize they need to make some changes. That allows me to come in with some association experience. I think they were open to doing that."

Having not worked at a newspaper, Karpel adds that he can bring an outside perspective the organization may need: "The biggest advantage is that I can see the forest, not the trees. I can get a bird's eye view."

Karpel takes over at a time when ASNE has already made some of its biggest changes ever this year, dropping the "Newspaper" from its name, expanding membership to online-only outlets and those in academia, and adding its first two Web editors to the board of directors.

"I've got a lot to learn," Karpel said. He later noted that at AAN he transformed the organization by using the Web site."

He said that had included adding a resource library, data bases and other detailed information to the site. "We need to touch the membership on a daily basis. Automated feeds and blogging. People need to go to the Web site everyday for something new."

He also wants to take the recent membership rule expansion and use it to bring in more new members quickly: "For ASNE to survive, we need to attract new members."

Asked about other priorities, Karpel said, "get a running start on the 2010 convention, which will be critical to the future of the association." ASNE canceled its 2009 convention that had been slated for last April in Chicago.

But Karpel also admitted: "It's important for me to understand the challenges that journalists face, not the details of their day-to-day experience. I need to be able to appreciate how the profession is changing and how those changes are having an impact on journalists' needs."


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