Newsroom experts

Get to know our newest contributor, Bill Church

Bill Church

Former Herald-Tribune Executive Editor Bill Church was recently named Senior Vice President of News for GateHouse Media, where he will oversee news strategy for the entire company.

We asked Church, a highly-regarded industry veteran, to explain a few of his ideas about where the industry is headed and what his plans are for the future.

If you like what you read, you’re in luck, because GateHouse Newsroom has tasked him with a biweekly contribution to our fair blog.

GateHouse Newsroom: What are the top two or three initiatives you plan on focusing on?

Bill Church: Our focus will evolve around two initiatives:
1) Do Journalism with impact.
2) Embrace our future.

The big J is important. We’ll go into 2017 intent on working closely with newsrooms to support their efforts to do journalism with impact. This means looking after the public’s interests, telling meaningful stories, and building deep relationships with key audiences. We expect our newsrooms to own the home field advantage in an increasingly competitive media environment.

To embrace our future, we need to see the potential and not just the pitfalls. Innovation has to be more than a buzzword. We need to rethink our organizational structure, i.e. be adaptable and more horizontally aligned. We’ve made solid strides in becoming more digital in news creation, delivery and engagement, but there is plenty of work to do.

GHN: What do you see as our industry’s greatest hurdle? How do we handle it?

BC: We’ve moved from a semi-static business model to an amorphous cloud capable of spitting out killer lightning bolts. Our journalism has value, but are we connecting with an ever-changing audience?

We could run for cover. Or we could get in front of the storm.

GHN: You come from a pretty digitally skilled newsroom. How will you bring a greater focus on digital to our company overall?

BC: We have a lot of digitally skilled journalists in GateHouse. What makes newsrooms such as Sarasota, Wilmington and Cape Cod stand out is a willingness to engage digital audiences in interesting ways. Culture matters. My approach typically is to think UX, think opportunity. Focus on the experience and not just the process.

GHN: Can you describe your leadership style? What can our newsrooms expect?

BC: The nicest compliment I’ve received recently came from Terry Galvin, the assistant business editor in Sarasota, who likened me to Cubs manager Joe Maddon. I was touched — might have shed a tear — because Joe is a great example of servant leadership.

I can be wonky. But I enjoy a good laugh. And I love being around people. Newsrooms tend to be my happy place.

GHN: What are you most looking forward to about living in Austin?

BC: Everyone in our Austin neighborhood looks like a professional triathlete. So I look forward to eating brisket and Tex-Mex regularly, knowing this diet means I’ll become a lean, mean fighting machine.

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