In a rare example of publisher-swapping, Stephanie Pressly is leaving her job as publisher of the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa, a job she's had since 2003. She'll become the publisher of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in Montana, while the publisher of that paper, Rick Weaver, will move to Nampa. The Treasure Valley's media landscape will miss the tough-minded Pressly, who bucked the criticism of the likes of Robert Vasquez to publish Idaho's first Spanish-language newspaper, La Prensa, and took on the big dogs at the Idaho Statesman. Pressly, 44, stopped by BW to talk about growth and the shifting media landscape in Idaho, and what she likes best about publishing a small, vital daily paper.
You came to Nampa after a stint at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. Were you aiming at the Treasure Valley when the job opportunity came along?
Not really. Pocatello is an isolated market. There's not a lot of direct newspaper competition. And it's actually a very newsy town. It's kind of a fun market to be in as a daily. I definitely had a mind for moving up in the company, not necessarily Nampa or Bozeman. So when Nampa opened up, and they asked me if I would do that, it definitely looked like a fun market. It's turned out to be just that.
Your paper definitely juices up the newspaper market here. You guys push the Idaho Statesman in directions they might not necessarily go. Do you feelthat way?
It's interesting. Since I've been in Idaho they've had five different publishers. They all have different approaches. When I came to the Press-Tribune, they were still with Gannett. They had made a prettysignificant push into Canyon County. That had been going on for years.
So we made a strategic decision to shore up our own market in Canyon County, and keeping Meridian as the front line, if you will. People, both on staff and in the community, asked us to go into Boise, and go into Meridian, and provide a more conservative voice and a different approach. So we really poured resources into building up our product and serving the Western Treasure Valley. Now, the former publisher [of the Idaho Statesman] made a foray into theWestern Treasure Valley, and it kind of fell flat.
When the Statesman announced its push into the Treasure Valley, I imagine there might have been a bit of anxiety out there. What did you say to people?
It's been kind of a pattern, of pushing into Canyon County, then backing off, a push in, and then backing off. Folks like our editor, who has been there for 25 years, have seen it over and over again and don't sweat it.
My advice is: Look, we've been doing this for 115 years. In Canyon County, we are the local news source. We do it better than anyone else can. If somebody else sends in a couple of reporters, we've got a newsroom of 30 people. It's something to always pay attention to, but not worry about. If we keep doing our job the best that we can, it's going to sort itself out.
You also made news with the Spanish newspaper, La Prensa.
That was fun.
Well, I think it's true that any press is good press. We've learned that one first hand. We certainly had our own marketing budget for the launch of La Prensa, but our friend Robert Vasquez decided to call for a boycott of not only La Prensa but also the Press-Tribune. It made every TV station, every radio station, print media, and really got the awareness out there for us. Initially we'd responded with our side of the story, but it's all since died down, and the newspaper's doing well.
Did you lose subscribers in all of that?
We lost about 70 subscribers. We've gotten the bulk of those back. There's a misperception that the Idaho Press-Tribune is subsidizing this free publication. But it really is two different business models, a whole different business unit.
Is La Prensa supporting itself now?
It is pretty much on track for a long-term plan. We had a dip in advertising around the first of the year, but we have a new general manager in and just put out the biggest issue of the year last Friday.
What are you going to be proudest of about your time at the Press-Tribune?
When I got there, I think the circulation trend had suffered, like many newspapers around the country. We were able to turn that around. Since I've been there I think it's grown more than 6 percent in home-delivery subscriptions and 29 percent in single-copy sales. Part of the reason for that is, it's solid community journalism. It's not a metro daily trying to serve a huge market with national, as well as international, and local. We do all that, but our primary focus is local news. I think community newspapers are in a really good position in the industry.
Why do you think so?
It's almost like we're a niche product. People are always going to need to know what the city council is up to, and what the school districts are doing--the movers and shakers in your hometown. Metros have to cover such a different geographic area, as well as try to be a full-service newspaper. We can provide news on a local front, and somebody can take USA Today and get their other news that way.
If you had an unlimited budget at the Press-Tribune, what would you do?
It would certainly be fun to expand into the entire Treasure Valley and give [the Statesman] a run for their money, but I don't think that's particularly practical. They're a good, solid newspaper, and McClatchy is the best publicly-traded newspaper company. They have a lot of good, talented people there.
What will you miss the most?
Obviously, our people. Our staff have really stepped up to the plate, and we've asked a lot of them. I will miss the community, and the competition.
What advice would you give the new publisher?
Don't panic. And have some fun. [Rick Weaver] is a very capable publisher witha good competitive streak. It will be fun to watch.