Three newspaper leaders talk to NAA audience about change

Three top newspaper executives — including my boss, Mike Reed, CEO of GateHouse Media — spoke to a general session of the NAA Connections conference this morning. 

I didn’t take close notes, but I’ll share a few points.

The best quotes of the morning came from Dean Singleton, CEO of Media News.

Dean: “If you read Romenesko every day and you hear our people in newsrooms whine — they whine and whine and whine wishing for the old days to come back. Damn it, I wish the old days would come back, too, but wishing for it isn’t going to make it happen. You must be focused on the future.”

And: “When we had to make cuts at one of our larger papers somebody in one of our unions put out a letter that said, ‘Well, we won’t be able to put out the same newspaper we have over the past 30 years.’ I said, ‘Precisely. Our readers don’t wnat the same newspaper we’ve been putting out over the past 30 years.'”

Brian Tierney’s strongest point as also about how the newsroom responds to change.

He noted that when he took over in Philadelphia, his team had to make the painful decision to cut 60 people, but today, he said, his papers are better journalistically than they were before the cuts. He gave credit to executive editor Bill Marimow. “Bill is a better leader. It’s about leadership, not numbers.”

Mike Reed’s primary points were about investing in sales — hiring more sales reps and training them better to sell more products. He said online is the biggest opportunity for newspapers and that is were most of the future revenue growth is going to come from. He also exhorted newspaper companies to spend 98 percent of their time on doing and only 2 percent of their time on talking.

Reminder: I’m on BlogTalkRadio from the convention at 1 p.m. today.