Incoming Chairman: Donald Newhouse Will Take the Helm of the Newspaper Association of America during the Annual Convention in Boston

Article excerpt

DONALD E. NEWHOUSE believes in delegating authority, a philosophy he and his brother learned from their dad, S.I. Newhouse Sr., before they inherited his publishing empire.

Donald Newhouse says he will carry that management style--a hallmark of Newhouse corporate culture--to the Newspaper Association of America when he takes over later this month as chairman, the first in his family to lead the newspaper industry's most powerful association.

"Each of our newspapers operates independently, with publishers who are strong, who set policy for their individual organizations and who have the authority and responsibility of carrying out the policies they set," said the Advance Publications Inc. president and man responsible for its 26 daily newspapers in 22 cities.

Though he regularly visits the papers under his direct command, "the ultimate authority and responsibility rest with the publishers. That is not only my style, but it is the style of my associates in the newspaper group," Newhouse said.

So NAA president and CEO Cathleen Black--just a year after the American Newspaper Publishers Association, Newspaper Advertising Bureau and five smaller newspaper groups merged to form a broader-based, more activist association--need not worry about Newhouse micromanaging.

"My job is not to manage NAA. That is Cathie's job," he declared. "My responsibility is to work with the board and give counsel to management in carrying out the board's policies."

He pledged to work with the board and committees "to enhance the operations, to be visible to membership and to help align policy with member needs."

His personal style and corporate culture notwithstanding, don't look for an aloof chairman to emerge only at conventions and in his column in NAA's monthly magazine, Presstime.

In a 40-minute telephone interview from his office at the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., Newhouse, who is rarely interviewed, repeatedly stressed his availability.

"An important function of the chairman is to be available to members to discuss any concerns and criticisms," he said, "to listen to what publishers have to say and attempt to respond to their comments."

The goal is to keep in touch to ensure that NAA programs are tailored to members, needs.

Despite his regular job--president of a $4.5 billion-a-year company with overall responsibility for 26 dailies-Newhouse said of the NAA chairmanship, "I plan to spend as much time as the job requires."

He will be accessible--but he will not be making any more big changes at the Reston, Va.-based association whose $32 million budget and 217 employees represent 1,413 U.S. newspapers.

Newhouse will not rock the boat as NAA begins to even its keel on a new course and gain speed after the dramatic upheavals of the past two years. They included surprise merger announcements; opposition to the all-but-forced blending of diverse groups; public criticism and resignations over NAA's alleged abandonment of small papers; controversy over Black's $700,000 annual salary and expenses; painful staff cuts; and a new management team.

A director of the association since 1983 and an Associated Press director since 1988, Newhouse foresees "no significant changes" at NAA, following the reorganization and the goals and strategies adopted under Frank Bennack Jr., the departing NAA chairman and current Hearst Corp. chairman and CEO.

"I think the changes have been made, the course has been set and now it's a matter of the management of NAA, Cathie and her team, to go forward on course," he said.

Newhouse's ascension to the chairmanship at the first convention under the NAA banner, in Boston April 2528, by all accounts comes at a happier time than the gathering last year, when the newspaper industry was crawling gloomily along the bottom of its worst slump since World War 11.

Despite continuing regional softness, business finally appears to be on the upswing following declines that began in 1988 and turned out to be longer and deeper than anybody expected. …