SNA's Lifetime Achievement Award to Be Presented in Kansas City This Fall
"Simply the best newspaper executive I have had the pleasure of knowing" is how Black Press President David Black describes Rick O'Connor. Black's nomination along with supporting recommendations from nine of Rick's colleagues and staff pushed him to the top of a very impressive group of nominees for the 2009 Dean Lesher Award.
O'Connor's accomplishments are many as are his contributions to the community and the industry. He started out as an owner of a small newspaper company in a small British Columbia town and ultimately left to work for Black Press, eventually moving up to Chief Operating Officer overseeing 150 titles and 3,000 employees.
The Dean Lesher Award focuses on innovation and looks to reward those individuals that have pioneered new concepts that have served as examples for the rest of the industry. "Product innovation has come with a variety of niche publications including fifteen Black Press free dailies, website verticals as well as UV eprime print technology" said Candy Hodson, Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing for Black Press. O'Connor also instituted green technology including "software to enable electronic invoicing... with payments being received via inter-bank transfer... electronic tearsheets, direct-to-plate technology..." according to Hodson's letter of recommendation.
"His devotion to the suburban industry is exemplified by his board service and first Canadian presidency of SNA which he led through a reorganization which saw it emerge as the vibrant association it is today" said Harrison Cochran, Publisher of Aurora Publishing who served on the SNA Board under Ricks tenure. "He is a one-man ambassador for the suburban newspapers in North America" Cochran added.
"Rick was the SNA Board Chairman on September 11, 2001" recalls SNA President Nancy Lane. "Many of us were on our way to Boston that morning to attend the SNA Fall Conference. One of the first calls that I made was to Rick. We eventually rescheduled the conference two months later thanks in large part to Rick's leadership. Many other associations cancelled their events that year but SNA remained strong; that rescheduled conference remains one of the best in our history. Rick also led us through a major restructure that year that included the outsourcing of our association management to Passageways in Traverse City, MI. He was clearly a man ahead of his time as outsourcing was not a trend at that time. SNA's success over the last nine years is due in large part to the leadership that Rick showed during those transitional years."
O'Connor is heavily involved in the community and is past president of the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation. His love of sports has enabled him to be an active member of Softball BC where he has helped to stage world-class tournaments and assist in developing the women's softball program at the University of British Columbia.
The staff at Black Press clearly enjoy working and learning from their innovative leader. "While Rick runs what has become a large newspaper company, he has an uncanny ability to still relate to both the struggles and successes of the smallest of divisions" said Lorie Williston, President Black Press BC North. "Vision-it is the one word that comes to mind when talking about Rick O'Connor" said Mark Warner, President, Black Press Vancouver Island. O'Connor is "a gifted coach and giving mentor who understands the importance of team-work and is quick to recognize the contributions of others" said Randy Blair, President, Black Press Lower Mainland, "Rick is a person of great integrity who has worked tirelessly and passionately to develop and maintain high standards of journalism and business ethics within our industry."
O'Connor will receive the award during a luncheon on September 23 at the Intercontinental Kansas City during the SNA Fall Publishers' & Advertising Directors Conference.
Suburban Newspapers of America represents more than 2,000 daily and weekly community newspapers and their related online media in the United States and Canada. The association focuses heavily on advertising initiatives including extensive outreach to major and national media buyers to promote the value of community media. The SNA Fall Publishers' & Advertising Directors' Conference is the association's major event of the year which features heavy involvement from major media buyers as well as an industry trade show. It will take place in Kansas City from September 22-25, 2009. The conference will feature new research, best practices, trends and input from media buyers. Registration information and complete program are available on the SNA Web site.