The evolution of newspapers continues worldwide, and this week’s announcement of new senior leadership at the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News spotlights that process right here in Texas. As Martha Stewart might say, “it’s a good thing.”
The Houston and San Antonio papers are owned by Hearst Corp., an iconic name in the publishing biz. Hearst announced it will move Express-Newspublisher Tom Stephenson a couple hundred miles to the east to take on that same role at the Chronicle. The Texas shuffle’s next step is John McKeon taking over as publisher in San Antonio after previously serving as president and general manager of the Dallas Morning News, which is not a Hearst property.
The familial relationship between the Chronicle and Express-News has grown much closer in recent years. As the economy has cut deeply into ad revenues, the sister papers have shared more and more content. Both would undoubtedly prefer to produce more of their own local content, but content sharing is a way to do more with less.
In fact, Hearst execs say the Express-News became the most efficient newspaper in the company’s chain of 52 daily and weekly papers. That bodes well for the future of the Chronicle as Stephenson applies his approach to efficiency to the “Chron.”
McKeon, meanwhile, is described as an innovator, and his career with marquee publishing groups like Tribune/Times Mirror (Los Angeles Times, Newsday) and Knight Ridder has likely infused him with a big-league outlook on innovation. TheExpress-News had been noticeably slower than the Chronicle to adopt new ways of doing business during these tough times.
“McKeon acknowledged the need for a new business model for newspapers,” said the Express-News. In fact, that need has existed for well over 10 years, since the Internet, smart phones and social media shattered the old methods of news distribution and consumption. But it’s always a good time to innovate and it’s encouraging to know McKeon gets it.
Two seasoned and accomplished executives at the top, and two great news organizations hungry to remain vital and relevant in an atmosphere of massive change – the future looks big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.