June 22, 2006
By ELIZABETH HAMILTON, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Courant Publisher Jack W. Davis Jr. will leave his job at year's end to be replaced by Stephen D. Carver, who is vice president and general manager of an Atlanta television station owned by The Courant's parent, Chicago-based Tribune Co.
Davis, who has led the Courant for six years and serves as its president, publisher and chief executive officer, will turn over the job of president to Carver on July 10. But Davis will stay on as publisher and CEO until the end of the year to provide for a gradual transition.
Both Davis and his boss, Tribune's vice president of publishing, Bob Gremillion, described the change in leadership at The Courant as voluntary and a "lucky confluence of events."
Davis, 59, is ready to move on and try new things, they said, and Tribune recently agreed to sell Carver's station, WATL-TV, to Gannett Co. for $180 million. Tribune executives were eager to keep Carver in the company, Gremillion said, so they offered him the Hartford job.
Gremillion knows how challenging it is to switch from television to newspapers because he did it himself nine years ago, when he was appointed publisher of Tribune's Fort Lauderdale paper, the Sun-Sentinel.
"The impact of what you're doing [at a newspaper] is so much more significant than any single television station," said Gremillion. "That's something that takes your breath away when you learn it."
The leadership change comes during a turbulent time for Tribune, which announced recently it would cut costs by $200 million, sell $500 million in businesses and borrow money to buy back $2 billion worth of stock in an effort to stem a decline in its stock price.
Carver, in an interview Wednesday, said he is not ready to discuss what, if any, changes he will make at The Courant after he assumes his job, but he expressed confidence that Tribune Co. can weather its recent tribulations.
"I'm optimistic that Tribune is going to work its way through these challenging times," Carver said. "No one says it's going to be easy. Certainly it's going to take a lot of work from a lot of people."
Although Carver's background is in television - not newspapers - Davis was optimistic Wednesday about his replacement. He said Carver's background in advertising and sales gives him skills that are important in these challenging times for newspapers.
Like many newspapers, The Courant in recent years has reduced staffing levels through layoffs and attrition. The number of employees in the news and editorial department, for example, has declined from about 345 in July 2003 to 275.
"I think having Steve Carver aboard with his background and accomplishments gives us a chance to grow the company on the revenue side which will prevent us, if we're successful, from having to make more cuts that newspapers around the country are having to make," Davis said. "I think people in Hartford and at The Courant should be cheering Steve on to grow the company financially so that we don't have to shrink it by cost cutting."
Both Davis and Gremillion described Carver as a low-key, skilled leader who knows how to connect with local markets and increase revenue. Carver joined Tribune Co. in 1998 as vice president and general manager of WGN-AM, a talk radio station in Chicago, and went on to become regional vice president for Tribune television, overseeing stations in Indiana and Michigan.
A native of New York, Carver, 51, grew up in Forest Hills and graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J. He and his wife, Janice, have two grown daughters.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Carver said Wednesday. "And I'm coming in with a belief that there are even better days ahead [for The Courant] than what it's had, and it's had some very good days, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that."
Davis, who is known in Hartford for his trademark bow ties and his soft-spoken demeanor, served as Tribune's vice president for planning at the newspaper publishing unit before being appointed publisher of The Courant in 2000.
In his announcement to the staff Wednesday, Davis said he expects "to launch into one of the interesting possibilities that I've been considering for some time."
Davis was reluctant to provide many details about those opportunities Wednesday, saying that he expects to decide his future in the next six months. But he did say that one option he is considering is returning to help rebuild New Orleans, where he and his wife still own a home.
"I have spent all of my non-newspaper time in the past year thinking about post-Katrina New Orleans and how to fix it," said Davis. "It's one of the main places I'm looking right now, how to participate meaningfully in rebuilding the city. There's [been] no progress in the city planning its neighborhoods and that's where they could use some help I think."
The preservation of historic buildings and urban planning are two of Davis' passions.
He graduated from Harvard University with a major in American history and literature. He moved to New Orleans shortly after graduation, where he co-founded a weekly newspaper and, in 1973, went to work for the States-Item in New Orleans.
As a reporter and columnist in New Orleans, Davis wrote expansively about the need for historic preservation outside the French Quarter; historic districts were eventually created.
He later became an editor at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, and at the Chicago Tribune, before moving to Virginia in 1987, where he worked at the Daily Press in Hampton Roads. There, he was promoted from the top editing post to publisher and chief executive officer before heading back to Chicago.
During Davis' tenure at The Courant, he served on the board of directors for the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the MetroHartford Alliance, and helped conceive of the Place pages in The Courant's Sunday Commentary section.
Under Davis, The Courant published a number of high-profile investigative works, including stories detailing corruption in the administration of Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned and went to prison; and stories about the Catholic Church's failure to discipline abusive priests. Most recently, the newspaper published a series exposing flaws in the military's screening and treatment of soldiers in Iraq with psychiatric problems.
"Like all editors and publishers, Jack and I didn't always see eye to eye, but on the really critical issues concerning journalism, Jack always made decisions that favored the newsroom," said Courant Editor Brian Toolan.
R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, head of the MetroHartford Alliance, still remembers how Davis lobbied the board to streamline the name of the organization, which was known as the "MetroHartford Regional Economic Alliance" until Davis got involved.
"I considered Jack a true brother in arms on this issue," Griebel said Wednesday. "He talked about having a lean message, having something strong, streamlined, and easy to understand. It's a wonderful example of something he felt strongly about."
Coleman Casey, president of the Wadsworth Atheneum board and a partner at the Hartford law firm Shipman and Goodwin, said Davis' participation was meaningful because he is thoughtful and knowledgeable about historic preservation.
"Jack is a person of enormous integrity," Casey said. "He's not the first person to speak. He listens carefully and when he speaks, it's always thoughtful, it's always careful."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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