2005 Frank W. Mayborn Leadership Award

Derek Dunn-Rankin honored

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2005 recipient:
Derek Dunn-Rankin, president, Sun Coast Media Group, Charlotte Harbor, Fla.

In presenting the award, Dolph Tillotson, president and publisher of the Galveston County (Texas) Daily News and president of SNPA, said, "It is my pleasure to honor a man who has contributed so much to our industry and to our association - a man who has shared his experience and wisdom with unfailing humility, honesty, strength and humor."

Dunn-Rankin began his newspaper career delivering the Miami (Fla.) News when he was 11. He edited his college newspaper and worked as a reporter, then sports editor, before transferring to the business side of the Miami News. By the time he left Landmark Corporation to start his own company in 1977, he was president of the Virginian-Pilot/Ledger-Star in Norfolk, Va.

Dunn-Rankin's first newspaper purchase in 1977 was the Venice (Fla.) Gondolier. In 1979, when he purchased the Charlotte Sun, it was a 16-page free tabloid with four employees and operated out of a store front next door to a laudromat. Sun Coast Media now operates the Gondolier, the Charlotte Sun, the Englewood Sun and the North Port Sun, and all but the Gondolier have become daily newspapers. Dunn-Rankin owns the only indpendent daily in Florida.

Since 1987 when the Sun began publishing seven mornings a week, the newspaper has grown 87 percent, making it the fastest growing daily in the United States, with a peak Sunday circulation of 50,000 last year. The Sun's TV Book has been rated "Best in the Nation" for newspapers under 100,000 circulation. In the years under Dunn-Rankin's leadership, the Gondolier often has been rated Florida's best weekly newspaper.

Printed newspapers, however, have not been Dunn-Rankin's only business ventures. Sunline, the newspaper's Internet division began in 1996 and twice has been rated the best newspaper web site in the country for newspapers under 100,000 circulation. DayStar, Sun Coast's telephone company, serves two counties and has steadily increased its market share. Sun Coast also developed software that is distributed nationally for the real estate industry.

With all his innovation, however, Dunn-Rankin has not strayed from his own community. During Hurricane Ivan last year, when newspapers were the only means of getting information to devastated communities, he provided papers to everyone, regular subscriber or not. He helped local businesses advertise that they were open after the disaster - helping prove the business community was still viable.

He gave away a million dollars of advertising to small advertisers forced to shut down, helping them to recover without additional expense. His company gave generators and mattresses to families in need and provided locations for free long distance service. He also helped consolidate the efforts of government agencies to speed relief efforts and hasten reconstruction after the disaster.

Dunn-Rankin has served as a member of the SNPA Board of Directors, as a trustee of the SNPA Foundation, as chairman of the New Media Committee and on the SNPA Editorial, Readership and First Amendment Committees. He was elected vice-chairman of the SNPA Foundation Board of Trustees earlier today. Dunn-Rankin has served on the board of directors of the Florida Press Association and was the association's president in the early 1980s.

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