Outgoing APME President Bill Church: Continuing to improve the future of journalism

As the Associated Press Media Editors annual leadership conference begins, the organization prepares for a shift in leadership.

Bill Church, outgoing president for APME, will step down and Jim Simon, managing editor for Honolulu Civil Beat, will begin his tenure.

Church, who began his presidency as executive editor of the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, now serves as the senior vice president at GateHouse Media. The position change came right after last year’s APME leadership conference and included a move from Sarasota, Florida to Austin, Texas. During his time with the Herald-Tribune, Church collaborated with the Tampa Bay Times, earning the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism and was at the helm when the paper was named to Editor & Publisher’s “Ten That Do It Right” list in 2015.

In a recent interview, Church discussed the past year of his life, his tenure with APME and the future of journalism. The 2017 ASNE-APME News Leadership Conference is held Oct. 8-11 in Washington D.C. The fourth annual conference will include some of the biggest names in journalism that will discuss the present and future of journalism in the United State Capitol.

How have you enjoyed your time leading APME as president?

My year as president has been a little bit wild because it also included a move from Sarasota, Florida to Austin, Texas and a job change from Executive Editor at the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, a newspaper that I absolutely loved, to becoming GateHouse’s senior vice president of news – a position that I have totally embraced and has opened up some new challenges in terms of how you figure out the journalism of the future as we’re moving forward.

What kind of things have you and your staff accomplished?

From an APME perspective, I have just been so blessed to be able to work with so many dedicated board members, who are at the same time dealing with the challenges of our changing industry. They have not given up on their commitment to do the type of journalism that compels us to make a difference.

To me, the accomplishment that I’ll remember most this year is just the willingness of our outstanding board to continue to think about the future, continue to think about this industry and continue to think about the wonderful opportunities that exist because we’re journalists.

Talking about all of the changes in journalism, what changes do you expect to see in journalism in the next couple of years?

Well, I think if we’ve learned anything in the past year, is our ability to build relationships with our audience’s are so important to our success in the future.

The reality is, if we don’t understand our readers, if we don’t understand our customers, we lose the opportunity to continue to engage with them and at the same time we erode the trust which has been such a valiant part of who we are as journalists.

What are the benefits in having the conference in Washington D.C. this year?

Our two conference committee chairs, Mark Baldwin and Mark Russell, have done a wonderful job of really building on that theme of engagement and making sure that we understand our role in this changing society.

I’m looking forward to spending time in D.C. not only with a lot of wonderful colleagues, but the ability to learn from readers, experts and those who may not necessarily think the way we do.

What should people be expecting from this year’s conference?

It’s a wonderful conference in the sense that you’ve got some really well known media personalities and thought leaders like Leonard Pitts. It gives the conference its star power, but at the same time the value of the conference really breaks down into understanding the change in our industry and how do we continue to create those meaningful experiences for our audiences moving forward.

There are the things that make the conference so valuable. It’s reuniting with people I respect in the industry, my friends, new folks that I’ve met through the years and I have to definitely give a plug to Juli Metzger and the Ball State students because they continue to motivate me and help me understand why what we do is so valuable. The ability to work with the students and to get to see their work is very stimulating.

With a career change in the past year, what are your future goals outside of APME?

I’m interested in that passion about working with the GateHouse newsrooms across the country. You know, the best part of the job is being able to walk into the newsroom and getting to spend some time with a reporter and getting to understand what projects they will be working on and to be stimulated by that ongoing quest for excellence. My next year from a professional perspective is to continue to help our journalists succeed.

Jim Simon has worked alongside you as vice president this past year. As the outgoing president, have you talked to him about future goals for the organization?

Yes, Jim Simon is going to be a great president. I’ve known Jim for several years now. He is a thoughtful, and he is an editor that is not only meticulous, but also open to change.

The work that has been established by past presidents will help Jim a lot. I seriously doubt that he’ll pick up anything of significance from my year as president, but that’s the good thing about Jim, is that he’ll be able to improve the product when he’s in charge.

Robby General is a senior at Ball State University. He graduates in May 2018. His email is rjgenerak@bsu.edu.

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