Bob Brincefield, vice president and regional manager of American Consolidated Media, vice president of Brownwood Newspapers, Inc. and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin, was elected president of the Texas Press Association on June 19 at the 131st Summer Convention in San Antonio.
Brincefield’s term as TPA president coincides with his 50th year in the newspaper industry.
Over the years, Brincefield has worked in nearly every aspect of the business, but he said a lifetime of experience has not made him an expert in any one area. Instead, he describes himself as a generalist—“a jack of all trades.”
Brincefield was born in Detroit. His father worked for the railroad.
Like many young men in the 1950s, he started with a paper route. At 16 years old, he worked part time at a substation operation for the Detroit News. After high school, he worked in the main plant’s transportation/circulation department downtown to pay his way through college.
“People today have a negative feeling about Detroit, but when I was growing up in the ‘50s it was a good place to be,” Brincefield said. “It had a great parks system and a good infrastructure.”
During Brincefield’s senior year of college, however, the Motor City was torn apart by five days of racial turmoil in the riots of 1967. Forty-three people were killed and more than 1,100 were injured.
Brincefield was 23 years old that summer. He was attending Wayne State University in downtown Detroit and working nights in the transportation department.
“We were issued passes to get us through the curfew check points,” Brincefield said. “It was a very strange feeling driving on empty streets even in the early evening hours and hearing the occasional sniper fire. It was even spookier to be asked to get out of your vehicle and spread-eagle on the hood while members of the 82nd Airborne Division searched my car, even though I had a pass.”
“The driver and I noticed one night when we returned to the loading dock that the truck we had been riding in had two bullet holes in the side of the cargo box.”
Brincefield graduated in 1967 with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology. He aspired to be a college professor but decided not to pursue a master's degree.
“Life got in the way,” Brincefield said.
“Life” at that time was Vietnam, he explained. After graduation, he tried to enlist in the Air Force in a pilot and navigator’s program but did not pass the hearing portion of the physical exam.
“After that I decided to wait on the Army and see if I got drafted,” Brincefield said.
He was sure he would be. He had passed his pre-induction physical and it was just a matter of time. He waited two-and-a-half years, but the call never came.
Brincefield married his wife, Carol, in 1968. Carol was also a Detroit native. She worked as an elementary school teacher and would later spend ten years tutoring high school students in Stephenville.
Soon after they married, Brincefield became fed up with the city administration, he said, and he and his wife decided to move to the country and commute to work.
His time in the country is what Brincefield calls his “hippie period.” He and his wife listened to country music and grew their own crops. They had a log house on two-and-a-half acres.
“We were out there for nine years and every fall we would take a vacation out West—my daughter was born, my wife stopped teaching school—and we would come back and say, ‘You know, there are people who don’t go through these Midwestern winters every year like we do.’” Brincefield said.
Brincefield was soon promoted to city supervisor at the Detroit News, and after two years of management experience, he began sending resumes to newspapers where he and his family wanted to live.
Brincefield accepted a position with the Woodson Group, a second-generation newspaper family with five daily papers in Texas.
Brincefield and his family moved to Stephenville where he started as the circulation manager/associate publisher at the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, a Woodson Group newspaper. He was later promoted to marketing director.
“That’s really when I fell in love with the newspaper business,” Brincefield said. “I think prior to that it was a good job, a good living, but when I came to Texas I got to do an awful lot of different things. I managed a couple of weeklies, started doing some news copy writing and selling advertising.”
Brincefield also served as president of the Erath County Humane Society while living in Stephenville. During his two-year tenure the board was able to secure a grant to build a new animal shelter.
Over the subsequent 32 years of his career, the Woodson Group was sold three times: first to Boone/Narragansett Publishing of the Southwest, then to American Consolidated Media, Inc., which was acquired by an Australian company called Macquarie Media Group in 2007. MMG no longer owns ACM.
Though the company is under different ownership and has greatly expanded over the years, Brincefield has stayed with what he says is the same five-newspaper company.
“I came to work for a second-generation newspaper family,” Brincefield said. “I’ve been sold three times, and a lot of people in the industry who have gone through the change to corporate ownership have horror stories to tell, but I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve worked for very good people who have treated me well.”
In 1992, Brincefield moved to Minnesota to take a job as publisher of a Boone newspaper, the Albert Lea Tribune. He also worked as vice president of Albert Lea Newspapers.
He said he and his wife enjoyed their time there, despite the cold. Their daughter was in college and they were very involved in the community.
Brincefield and his wife have always been involved in their communities. Brincefield served on the board of directors for three chambers of commerce: Stephenville, Albert Lea, Minn., and Brownwood.
Fours years after Brincefield moved to Minnesota, he was offered a position as publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin and vice president of Brownwood Newspapers, Inc., and he and his wife moved back to Texas. During that time he also worked as vice president of Boone Newspapers.
Over the years, he has served on the board of two United Way organizations, the Brown County Literacy Council, the Stephenville chapter of the Texas Kidney Foundation and the Brownwood Civic Improvement Foundation.
In Brownwood, Brincefield was a board member of the Family Services Center, a successful pilot project that developed from the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
He also served as interim director while the board searched for a licensed social worker to take on the role. His successor is now in his 11th year and the project has become a model for the state.
When Boone Newspapers was sold to ACM in 1999, Brincefield stayed on as vice president and regional manager, in addition to continuing his role as vice president of Brownwood Newspapers, Inc. and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin—positions he still holds.
As vice president and regional manager of ACM, Brincefield has group responsibility for 11 newspapers and direct responsibility for three.
“I’m more of a coach than anything else,” Brincefield said. “I try to give my department heads a lot of latitude to run the Bulletin—same thing with the other publishers and general managers of the newspapers that work for me.”
Although Brincefield has seen many changes in the past 50 years, his love of the industry and optimism about the future remain unchanged.
“I’m still bullish for newspapers,” he said.