Georgia publisher, Williams, named NNA president

October 1, 2013

Phoenix, AZ—Robert M. Williams Jr., chair and publisher of SouthFire Newspaper Group in Blackshear, GA, was elected as president of the National Newspaper Association, during the association’s 127th annual convention and trade show Sept. 14, 2012. He had been vice president.

Williams succeeded Merle Baranczyk, publisher of the Salida (CO) Mountain Mail, who became immediate past president.

Elected vice president was John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of the Nebraska Signal in Geneva, NE. He had been treasurer.

Elected treasurer was Chip Hutcheson, publisher of the Princeton (KY) Times Leader. He had been Region 3 director (Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia).

During his acceptance speech at the association’s business meeting, Williams thanked not only those in attendance for being community newspaper publishers, but all those who own and work at community papers. From an extensive list of reasons for why community newspapers and those who work at them are important, he said, “Thank you for being the greatest link—and the strongest protection—between your readers and those with the power to tax and regulate and govern—and the few who choose to abuse that power. Thank you for speaking truth to power without fear or favor. Newspapers are often the only ones in a community willing to do that.

“Thank you for being the first transcribers of the only history your communities will likely ever record. The words and photos we preserve today are the priceless artifacts of lives treasured for generations to come.

“Thank you for providing a low-cost, effective and reliable connection between hundreds of sometimes struggling small town businesses and the buying public. You are a vital link between buyer and seller and, most important, you are an invested partner in the success of your friends and neighbors. Thank you for working hard to help them succeed.

“You do it week after week with sensitivity and caring and fairness and accuracy. Thank you for that.

“Thank you for not blindly following the lemmings over the cliff … Those doomsayers who love to shout that newspapers’ best days are behind them. But what do they not say—that TV viewership is being splintered into hundreds of channels—with far more of them focused on promoting sex and silliness than vital information that makes our families stronger, our values deeper … our home lives happier. When was the last time television covered good news in your community?

“We are the only true mass medium in thousands of markets nationwide!”

Williams also noted that: “The work of our National Newspaper Association has paid countless dividends to our newspapers for decades. Many are unaware of the significant discounts and privileges NNA has won with the U.S. Postal Service that we now take for granted. We cannot count the dollars we’ve saved through rate increases delayed or avoided entirely. Newspaper readers and the public at large have benefitted from our advocacy on Capitol Hill in ways that have strengthened our country’s Democratic principles.

“This work is hard. And it is costly. Our numbers, although stable and even growing some, still include too few of our brethren. Too many newspaper companies wish to ride on your shoulders. Every member needs to be an advocate for protecting and promoting the work of newspapers in general and NNA specifically. Too many want you to pay the cost for them.

“I ask you simply: Go home and be an advocate for your industry. Be an advocate for community newspapers. Be an advocate for NNA.”

Elected to his first three-year term is Philip Vega, publisher of the Siera Vista (AZ) Herald as Region 11 director (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam). He succeeds Sharon DiMauro, publisher of the Fort Bragg (CA) Advocate-News and the Mendocino (CA) Beacon, who completed her second three-year term on the board.

Elected to their second three-year terms were Pat Desmond, publisher the Milton (MA) Times, as Region 1 director (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont); and David Puddu as Region 10 director (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming).

Continuing on the board are Carl Aiello, president of Times Community Publications of the Hudson Valley in Newburgh, NY, as Region 2 director (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and the District of Columbia); Susan Rowell, publisher/regional manager, The Lancaster News/Carolina Gateway Lancaster, SC, as Region 4 director (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Puerto Rico). Rowell was appointed to serve the unexpired term of Bill Jacobs, publisher of Southwest Publishers Inc. in Brookhaven, MS. Jacobs had recently sold his newspaper company; Jeffrey “Jeff” Farren, president and publisher of Kendall County Record Newspapers Inc. in Yorkville, IL, as Region 5 director (Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio); Andrew Johnson, Dodge County Pionier in Mayville, WI, as Region 6 director (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin). He succeeds Steve Andrist, former president of Journal Publishing Inc., publisher of The Journal in Crosby, ND, and The Tioga (ND) Tribune. Andrist recently sold the family newspaper company and was named executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association; Dane Vernon, Vernon Publishing Inc. in Eldon, MO, as Region 7 director (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska); David Fisher, president and publisher of Fisher Publishing in Danville, AR, as Region 8 director (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas); and Tom Mullen with the Phillipsburg (MT) Mail as Region 9 director (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington).

Appointed to the board was Jerry Tidwell, publisher of the Hood County News in Granbury, TX, as an at-large director.

Remaining on the board as an at-large director is Deb McCaslin, publisher of The Custer County Chief in Broken Bow, NE.

Continuing on the board were David Bordewyk, executive director for the South Dakota Newspaper Association, representing the Newspaper Association Managers; and Michael Bush, president and chief executive officer for Civitas Media LLC in Davidson, NC, as an at-large director.

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