October 30, 2011

Richard Connor: Future holds new crusades in journalism

Since announcing on Friday my departure at year's end from MaineToday Media, the company I founded, there comes the inevitable question: What are you going to do next?

click image to enlarge

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe visits MaineToday Media's editorial board in the company's Portland office earlier this year.

Staff file photo

I've been in the media business for 40 years and intend to be in it for at least another 20.

Just like my Maine friends, Ellsworth American Publisher Alan Baker and the late Russell Wiggins, who worked at the American into his 90s.

My journey back to Maine was inspired by a desire to return home and work in the business I know and love. At that time, in 2008 and for much of 2009, there was a real threat that our three daily and Sunday newspapers and one weekly would shut down. All employees – almost 600 of them – would have lost their jobs.

Painfully, we have had to adjust to economic conditions and downsize our employee force, but our businesses have survived and are well-positioned for the future. We brought back solid journalism and reopened bureaus in Augusta and even Washington, and have served our communities and nonprofits generously.

At the same time, we have laid a new foundation for the business, investing in digital infrastructure, increasing paid, daily circulation, bringing advertisers back in the fold, consolidating printing and moving into new offices.

This is a difficult business these days, but there remain many opportunities to improve journalism, better serve our communities and transition digital journalism into a solid financial business model.

There are still large numbers of news readers and advertisers. Newspapers have a gloomier future in big city markets but smaller, regional newspapers and websites continue to have bright futures.

The media business, both broadcast and print, has usually been slow to adapt to change but eventually it does and it succeeds. That trend will continue because we employ the best journalists in the world and talented sales executives. Advertising pays the bills and, luckily, still works.

News is my profession and my hobby. Being in this business brings the benefits and thrills of free enterprise, but the real satisfaction comes in addressing political and social ills. What comes next for me will be to continue to devote my efforts to journalism, fairness in reporting and the challenge we all face of building a solid digital business foundation for this industry. 

Richard L. Connor is CEO of MaineToday Media, owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. A newspaperman for 40 years, he has served on two Pulitzer Prize for Journalism nominating committees. He can be reached at:

rconnor@pressherald.com

 

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