Finding solutions collectively

Oklahoman Publisher Chris Reen takes over as president of SNPA

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Strong leadership is the key to the future of what incoming SNPA President Chris Reen describes as local media companies, of which newspapers are one component.

"I tell people all the time, this is a business that is not for the faint of heart. It is in constant disruption," said Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman Media Co. "Personally, I feel a sense of responsibility to my employees, to my company, to the industry, to my family, to be on the front lines of figuring out where this thing is going.

"I think our industry needs strong leadership and I hope I can provide some of it for some people, which is why I stay in this business. I believe in it and I believe in its future."

Amid the disruption, Reen believes that SNPA's role in serving the industry is crucial.

"I think SNPA is one of the strongest and most valuable industry associations in the nation. I would say I'm humbled to lead it for the next year, and in some small way, I just want to continue our positive momentum."

Reen didn't intend to make a lifelong career of newspapers. As a student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, he accepted an internship at The Buffalo News because it seemed a good way to gain work experience and help pay for school.

After two more summers at the News, he was offered a full-time job in advertising and decided it would be good job while he thought about "what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. That was 26 years and five newspapers ago."

Reen came to the publisher's office in Oklahoma City from the advertising side of the newspaper business, via The Buffalo News, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. He joined The Oklahoman as vice president of sales and marketing in 2004 and was named president and publisher in September of 2011.

Earlier this year the company was a finalist for the Mega-Innovation Award (presented annually at the Key Executives Mega-Conference). Currently it is in the process of moving printing and packaging operations to Tulsa, where the Tulsa World is expected to begin printing parts of The Oklahoman in September and handle all printing by October.

Reen said it no longer made sense for two companies to have manufacturing centers just 90 miles apart. Like other newspapers consolidating their print operations, The Oklahoman will be dealing with deadline issues, particularly in sports. The NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, for example, regularly plays on the West Coast with later finishing times.

The Oklahoman will provide subscribers with "a separate, fully paginated digital edition that will have the most up-to-date information," delivered by 5:30 a.m. each morning.

"It's not perfect, but the flip side is we're going to give them more value by giving them additional content, whether that's entertainment content, whether that's more information on national and world, whether it is additional local content," Reen said. "We're not just in the business of taking things away."

The new SNPA president said his company depends on SNPA conferences, meetings, webinars and training sessions. He assigns employees to attend these events regularly whether online or in person, and he finds informal networking to be valuable as well. "It provides an opportunity for us to collectively develop solutions to these real challenges that we're facing. I think SNPA does it, frankly, better than anyone."

The Oklahoman Media Co. is not only a newspaper, but a direct mail company, a technology start-up, a digital marketing agency, an events producer, a video production team and an outdoor advertising business, Reen said. Innovation brings the profit needed to produce good journalism.

"Our journalism is still at the core of what we do. For us that means being a voice for those that need one. It means helping to lead change when change is needed. It means exposing corruption and injustice. But it also means strengthening local and small businesses, and providing valuable advertising results, and serving as the fabric of our communities. Those aren't all just talking points or buzz words. We really try to live that."

SNPA members can contact Chris Reen at creen@opubco.com


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net. Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

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