Leadership changes have been reported at four Texas newspapers.
Palmer Group leader Leifeste takes helm at Texarkana Gazette
Terri Leifeste is the Texarkana Gazette’s new general manager, parent company WEHCO Media Inc. announced.
Leifeste assumed responsibility for the Gazette’s day-to-day operations, relocating from Jefferson City, Mo., to Texarkana.
Leifeste remains president of WEHCO Media’s Palmer Newspaper Group, which comprises Central Missouri Newspapers Inc., publisher of the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun and California Democrat, and five newspapers in Arkansas, including the Gazette. She is stepping down as general manager of CMNI.
Her experience spans almost 40 years and includes stints as general manager of Middle Tennessee Community Newspapers, publisher of the Courier News in Elgin, Ill., and vice president of Horizon Publications, where she served as publisher of the Saline Courier in Benton, Ark.
She has been a member of the National Newspaper Association, Arkansas Press Association and a variety of other newspaper groups.
A native of Greenville, Leifeste is the first woman to hold the title of president at a WEHCO Media newspaper. She said the company’s leadership is more focused on how a job is done than on who is doing it.
Jeff Jeffus, president of WEHCO Newspapers, said he was confident that Leifeste’s thorough industry knowledge would take the Gazette to a new level of success.
Community service is a personal priority, Leifeste said, and she plans to bring those values to her role at the Gazette. In Missouri she served on the boards of several charities, including the United Way and Boys and Girls Clubs.
As goals for the Gazette, Leifeste promised a more diverse range of publications tailored to the community’s needs, as well as a renewed focus on digital content and services.
“I think our readers and our advertisers will see more products come out of our newspaper, maybe some more niche publications, some things that the community may see that might not even be inserted into our newspaper but that we see the need for in Texarkana,” she said.
As part of the focus on digital offerings, she plans to promote the company’s digital agency, Flypaper, with more resources to make it competitive with other digital agencies.
Leifeste replaces Kirk Blair, who had been general manager since April 2014. In a career at the Gazette that began in the 1970s, Blair served as circulation director, advertising director and for more than 20 years, marketing director.
McClatchy taps Wortel as publisher for Sacramento Bee
Star-Telegram Publisher Gary Wortel is leaving Fort Worth to become regional publisher of McClatchy’s West region and president and publisher of the Sacramento Bee, McClatchy’s flagship newspaper.
Wortel, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, will assume his new role at the Bee on April 10. As one of four regional publishers for McClatchy, Wortel will oversee nine other newspapers in California, Idaho and Washington, according to the March 17 announcement.
Wortel, 60, who has been in Fort Worth since late 2007, led the Star-Telegram through its ongoing digital transformation during a challenging time in the newspaper industry marked by declines in print readership and advertising revenue.
Tony Berg, president and publisher of the Kansas City Star, will serve as the regional publisher for the Midwest region, which includes the Star-Telegram. Berg will be tasked with hiring a publisher for the Star-Telegram, which is also conducting a search for an executive editor.
Wortel came to the Star-Telegram from Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he was president and publisher of The Sun News from 2005 to 2007. He was vice president of advertising and marketing at the St. Paul Pioneer Press from 2001 to 2004 and also held a variety of advertising, marketing and sales positions at The Tennessean in Nashville and at the San Jose Mercury News.
Under Wortel, the Star-Telegram created new and enhanced niche publications, including K magazine and several community weekly newspapers, and launched major digital initiatives, such as the award-winning video series documenting Aledo High School’s run to the 2016 state football championship.
In response to media-industry challenges, Wortel also made difficult decisions to downsize the Star-Telegram, including selling the downtown Star-Telegram building and the printing facility in south Fort Worth.
The move by McClatchy to promote publishers to newly created regional positions in the East, Carolinas, Midwest and West is the latest in a series of realignments by the company. McClatchy also has regionalized or centralized its audience, production, human resources and finance divisions, streamlined the company’s legacy print operations and refocused resources on accelerating the company’s digital transformation.
Strasner assumes publisher role at Banner-Press
Jay T. Strasner is the new publisher of the Banner-Press in Brenham.
He comes from the El Campo Leader-News, where he served as publisher for the past six years.
“I have already found Brenham to be full of friendly people who are passionate about their hometown newspaper, and I’m so eager to continue the tradition of excellence established here for so many decades,” Strasner said.
Under Strasner’s direction, the El Campo Leader-News won more than 100 advertising and editorial awards, including five first-place sweepstakes plaques in the past five years.
Prior to working in El Campo, Strasner was a publisher in Mississippi and served as editor of three newspapers in Arkansas. Newspapers under his direction in those states also won numerous editorial awards, including four Associated Press Managing Editor’s Sweepstakes honors and two consecutive Arkansas Press Association general excellence awards. Strasner has also won numerous individual first-place honors for editorial writing, photography, feature writing, business reporting and column writing.
He has been an active member of Rotary in all three states and was active in chamber of commerce work in El Campo.
Strasner also previously served the board of directors of the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors, as well as on the editorial contest committee and the Freedom of Information board for the Arkansas Press Association.
A native of Arkansas, he is a journalism graduate of the University of Arkansas.
Crabtree named publisher for Leader-News
The new editor and publisher at the El Campo Leader-News is a familiar face to readers.
Former news editor Shannon Crabtree was promoted to the position, succeeding Jay T. Strasner, who is now publisher at the Brenham Banner Press after six years in El Campo.
Coming to El Campo in October 1993 as a beat reporter, Crabtree has covered issues throughout the community for almost 24 years.
“I’m truly honored to accept this promotion and look forward to working with the community in this new capacity,” Crabtree said. “But when a person’s a writer, they write, so don’t expect to stop seeing my bylines.”
Crabtree holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in English and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Houston – University Park. She has worked at two other Hartman Newspapers publications, the Fort Bend Mirror and Rosenberg Herald-Coaster, now the Fort Bend Herald.
She also spent two years teaching public speaking at the University of Houston.
Noting that the newspaper has won more than 100 awards in categories ranging from news and lifestyle coverage to advertising and page design during the last five years, Crabtree said the newspaper’s tradition of excellence will continue.
The Leader-News welcomed two new staff members in recent weeks as well as the return of a former intern. Joining the advertising team was Ashlee Coleman, a former elementary teacher. At the front desk, Brittany O’Brien has taken the classified post, and, in the newsroom, El Campo High School graduate Casie Kruppa has returned temporarily after a yearlong stint in Blanco.