The Salem Statesman Journal has a new publisher, Terry Horne, nine days after the Gannett Corporation announced it was spinning off its newspaper operations, leaving them to an uncertain economic fate.
Download Terry Horne to join Statesman Journal as new publisher
Gannett announced that previous publisher Steve Silberman was "moving on to a new job" on the same day the restructuring was revealed. Supposedly the search for his replacement would take place far and wide.
Download Statesman Journal publisher moving to new job in Gannett
John Zidich, president of Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing Divisions' West Group, said the company would consider internal job candidates as well as candidates from outside Gannett to fill the publisher's position in Salem.
Congratulations to Gannett for conducting such an extensive search for a replacement publisher so quickly. It just took nine days to decide that nobody at the Statesman Journal or anywhere outside the Gannett Corporation was better qualified than Horne.
Who comes to the Statesman Journal after serving as publisher of another Gannett newspaper, the Pensacola (Florida) News Journal, for just seven months. Not surprisingly, the executive editor he hired after he arrived praised his brief tenure as publisher.
Download Publisher Terry Horne leaving the Pensacola News Journal
In Pensacola Horne oversaw relocation of the newsroom to a new building, a task that I believe is in the works for the Statesman Journal also. Curious about what other insights regarding Horne's background can be found online, I turned to the Great God Google.
In April 2007, Horne became publisher of the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona, a Freedom Communications holding. Intrigued by the name, I learned it is a libertarian-leaning private corporation which also owns the Orange County Register, where Horne went next.
In September 2007, after being the East Valley Tribune publisher for just five months, Horne became the Register's publisher. In 2008 he spoke about laying off people and his admiration for a tabloid format such as the Oregonian has gone to.
That same year, Horne's business approach was described as less content in the flagship paper, and more emphasis on free community weeklies.
Understandably, “it's a lot for longtime Register readers to take in and some are unhappy,” reported the OCR, but the "the better choice was to have less content but with as high a quality as possible," said Horne.
In 2011, still at the Register, Horne was promoting the benefit of self-service advertising -- whatever that is.
That year, in September 2011, Horne announced his retirement.
“We’re obviously sorry to see Terry go,” said Freedom COO McEachen. “But we wish him and his family the best in what we’re sure will be a busy retirement.”
Absolutely true, given that Horne became the publisher of the Pensacola News Journal in January 2014. Apparently his retirement just lasted a bit over two years.
Salemians who want to get an advance peek at the soon-to-be publisher of the Statesman Journal can watch a Pensacola video interview with him.
I watched the interview up to about the ten minute mark.
As would be expected, Horne is highly knowledgeable about trends in the newspaper industry. He recognizes that online is the future. He speaks about the "disruptive innovation" of Craigslist that is giving away advertising newspapers used to get a bunch of money for.
I have no doubt Gannett has picked the right guy to do the job -- whatever that is -- the corporation wants done in Salem.
My concern is that what is good for Gannett isn't good for Salem. I know this, because the Salem Statesman Journal has been steadily sliding down the ladder of quality journalism, rung by disturbing rung. I can understand why this has been necessary economically.
But I don't have to like it.
Serious investigative journalism is dead and gone at the Statesman Journal. So is in-depth analytic reporting of local issues. Frothiness, puff pieces, and human interest stories rule the journalistic roost. Editorial positions also exactly mirror whatever the Chamber of Commerce wants. Criticism of City Hall is almost non-existent, even though the Mayor, City Manager, and councilors have been doing tons of stuff that deserve journalistic inquiry.
I'm not hopeful about a new publisher guy coming to town.
Since Horne already retired, then un-retired to put in a short stay as the Pensacola News Journal publisher, likely the same is going to happen here. He will do the shaking-up and deal-making that Gannett wants to have happen. Being an outsider, this will be easier for him to accomplish than if a new publisher was promoted from current Statesman Journal staff.
In future posts I'll write more about why the current journalistic trajectory of the Statesman Journal disturbs me.
If it was just the newspaper going down the tubes, that's no big deal. But I believe the whole Salem community is much diminished when citizens aren't fully informed about what is going on in their home town.
The Statesman Journal is no longer a "paper of record." It is barely a community newspaper at all. I'm afraid things aren't going to improve after Terry Horne arrives. Gannett's bottom line may, but this isn't what Salem, Oregon needs.
What we need is a new newspaper.