"When I look at why more people don't read newspapers ? because they don't see the value in it ? my job as editor is to offer something of value to them. So as president of APME, my job is to offer value to members," said Robert G. McGruder, managing editor of the Detroit Free Press.
McGruder takes over as the organization experienced another dip in convention attendance after two years in which it had been rebuilding from the recession of the late 1980s.
"We need to get back on the growth track," McGruder said. "Of course people are automatically members. What we need is for them to become active members. It doesn't mean they all come to the convention, but they need to be a strong voice in the organization."
McGruder's strategy to do that is one APME has followed since its founding in 1933.
"We want to get back to what has been the hallmark of APME ? providing good nuts-and-bolts information," McGruder said.
Especially about the state of the newspaper industry, the new president added.
"I look at my own needs as an editor and I think they're similar to what other editors want and need," McGruder said. "They are dealing with difficult economic times in the newsroom, with a lack of resources. They want to know what are the economic factors affecting us. I am an enthusiastic supporter of training ? for myself, for my newsroom and for our industry."
In addition, McGruder wants to redouble APME's efforts in its primary mission: monitoring the Associated Press.
"Obviously, AP does a wonderful job. But now that it is in the position of being the wire service organization . . . we can always do a better job of [monitoring]," McGruder said.
Another important goal will be continuing APME's work in promoting newsroom diversity.
McGruder is APME's 59th president and its first African-American leader.
"Frankly, it's lonely here. I have to be embarrassed when Jesse Jackson looks around and sees so few minorities," said McGruder, speaking shortly after a convention and luncheon in which Jackson excoriated how the press covers African Americans.
"We've got to convince publishers and editors that minority [APME] members need to come to the conventions for the lessons they can learn . . . and for the contacts and networking," he said.
APME worked for him, McGruder says."I think a lot of what I know and gained as an editor, I know from the smarter, more experienced editors I met at APME," he said.
Right now, McGruder is facing the most difficult managing challenge of his career ? managing editor at the Free Press, where a strike against the paper and its joint operating agency partner, the Detroit News, turned 106 days old the day McGruder was sworn in as APME president.
During the strike, about half of the newsroom employees have crossed picket lines in the face of insults from journalists who are staying out with the Detroit Newspaper Guild. The Free Press has also hired new reporters and copy editors it regards as permanent replacements.
"The challenge is how do we pull all these people together? We have people who have returned to work, new hires who are some excellent hires, and someday, I hope, we'll have the strikers back if positions can be found for them," McGruder said.
"It's tough for me," he added, "I was a Guild activist when I was a reporter. I went on strike. And being on the other side of the table is strange; it's not easy."
McGruder began his journalism career in 1963 as a reporter at the old Dayton (Ohio) Journal Herald.
Within a year, he joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where he remained until 1986.
?("We've got to convince publishers and editors that minority [APME] members need to come to the conventions for the lessons they can learn . . . and for the contacts and networking.") [Caption]
?(? Robert G. McGruder, APME president and managing editor, Detroit Free Press) [Photo & Caption]
By: Mark Fitzgerald AS ITS NEW president sees it, Associated Press Managing Editors is confronting all the problems that beset society at large: uncertain economic times, slow growth in workplace diversity and a need for more education.