Director Q and A: Florida’s Jim Fogler

Jim Fogler took over as president and chief executive officer of the Florida Press Association exactly two years ago.

2020 and 2021 were a blur.

It’s a good thing he was used to a hectic pace as a longtime up-and-comer at media giant Gannett, where he advanced through the publishing ranks over a 33-year career.

Jim Fogler, president and chief executive of the Florida Press Association

In a relatively short time, Fogler has established himself in Florida as a spirited cheerleader for his local media members (check out his LinkedIn account), but one just as eager to embrace new ideas and innovation to power the industry forward. It’s also helped that he’s an experienced hockey player who knows it’s important to skate where the puck is headed so you don’t miss the best chance to score points or, worse yet, get crunched in the pack.

A self-avowed people person, Fogler attributes his big impact on the state and industry to his association’s team, while acknowledging the need for quick results during a challenging pandemic that more than matched the many changes he had to navigate at his corporate employer.

“Well, you know that old saying, you’re only as good as your team. In my case that sure held true,” said Fogler, who succeeded Dean Riddings, now the chief executive of America’s Newspapers that serves more than 1,400 newspapers. “I was truly blessed with the 17 team members I inherited, starting with my solid vice president, Carolyn Nolte, who basically runs the agency side of our business and manages a total of 14 employees from account managers to media solution specialists. Carolyn became my right arm and is very knowledgeable of our industry and brings a tremendous amount of leadership experience with a collaborative, make-it-happen attitude.”

“On the other side of the house,” Fogler added, “we have an additional three employees who includes our program manager, Devon Dunkle, our general counsel, Sam Morley — who most of the other state press associations already know — and my left arm, Karen Tower, who is my FPA and Foundation director.”

The Relevance Project appreciates Fogler being the latest participant in the monthly Executive Director Question and Answer program. He squeezed us in during the Christmas holiday and we’re glad he did.

Read on:

Jim Fogler’s philosophy is “work hard, player harder.” He closed out 2021, for example, by celebrating wins and achievements with his Intersect Media and Florida Press Association staff during a fun time at the Publix Aprons Cooking School.

Can you introduce us to your association in general?
The Florida Press Association was founded in 1879 as a nonprofit corporation to protect the freedoms and advance the professional standards of the press of Florida.
Our purpose includes: the promotion and encouragement of higher standards of journalism to the benefit of the industry and the public; the aid and advancement of the study of journalism; the encouragement of a better understanding between the public and the press; the encouragement of better business methods and practices within the industry; the encouragement of positive fraternal relations within the press; and the representation of the common interests of the press on issues of general welfare and mutual concern.
The Florida Press Association has a total of 160 members, including all of the daily and most of the weekly newspapers in the state.

What makes your association different from others?
For starters, we have an agency arm called Intersect Media. It punches way above our weight, placing media using our statewide digital and print ad network and other media from many well-known clients and agencies throughout the state of Florida and in the nation.
We have 160 members who are very active in our association and host an annual Florida Media Conference, with all the proceeds benefiting our Florida Press Foundation. In addition to our Foundation, we manage three additional associations which includes the Florida Magazine Association, FSNE, FNAME, and hold four newspaper contests a year celebrating excellence in journalism.

Now you: What’s been your career path?
Let’s just say, I, too, have ink in my blood like the rest of you. I am very passionate about preserving, protecting, and growing our news media industry. Started my career right out of college at the Poughkeepsie Journal, the oldest newspaper in New York state and second oldest newspaper in the country. I worked my way up through the marketing and sales ranks of the Gannett media company and moved physically about seven times, holding various positions including marketing and communication director, regional sales and marketing director, VP of marketing; and held president and publisher roles at the Ithaca Journal and the Burlington Free Press.
Dreams do come true as I came back to my home in 2016 to take the helm at my hometown newspaper, the Poughkeepsie Journal, where I started my career.

How would you describe your position and role to someone outside the newspaper industry? 
My role is two-fold: One is to advocate and support our members by lobbying at the statehouse against any ugly bills and by telling our story to help eliminate the perception that the association is supporting a dying industry. I quickly let folks know that we’re not dying, we’re evolving and growing and leaning forward in the digital space. I share we’ve always had a subscription-based model and we were way ahead of our time and these subscriptions are growing but they are growing digitally. We are now giving our readers news and information how they want it, where they want it and when they want it. I always look for an opportunity to educate folks, especially young professionals, and young legislators about who we are and why supporting us protects the First Amendment.
The other major role is to help drive as much revenue as I can through our Intersect Media ad agency arm to our member organizations. 

What do you like best about your job?
I’m a people person, so I love traveling the state and meeting our members in person, getting a better understanding of the markets they serve, hearing their challenges, and most of all listening to them share their stories.
Coming from the field, I share best practices from my own publishing experiences or from other ideas I’m hearing during my other site visits. I also love getting to know and learning from my NAM (Newspaper Managers Association) counterparts. We’re at a pivotal time in our industry and I, too, love being the catalyst for positive change.

Legislation sessions.
The good news for me is that I am blessed with a veteran general counsel staffer who has become my Anne Hathaway in the “Devil Wears Prada” since he knows everyone on the hill and has helped me navigate through some rough Public Notice sessions.

What is your proudest career moment? 
In the spirit of being bold and courageous, I took one of my newspapers (the Burlington Free Press) in 2013 through an entire $2.4 million press (rebuild) project. We took a broadsheet newspaper format to a smart compact edition. This project saved the company 30 percent in newsprint and ink, which saved jobs while being innovative in our modern approach. This new smart compact edition had color on every page, a magazine flair, sections were stapled and nested inside each other, and all per column inch ad sizes were converted to modular size ad units.  Even with the reduction in ad size units, we were able to protect the rate and grow ad revenues by selling more impact and creative ad units. This mammoth of a project took eight months to complete, but with daily communication internally and externally, and an all-star team, it was successfully launched under my leadership.

One of the best parts of Jim Fogler’s job is to give out awards to association members. He was on hand to honor Diane Kortus, the owner of the Laker Lutz News and winner of FPA’s Newspaper of the Year, at the most recent Florida Media Conference.

What are your association’s priorities? (Feel free to add a personal priority.)
Our growth strategies include the following in no particular order:  
Preparing for the new Public Notice Legislation on Jan 1.
Diversifying our revenue base with new business and targeting these specific categories: Advocacy, Senior Living, Sports and Entertainment, Tourism, Health Care, Financial and Agency Partners.
Protecting the newspapers against bad legislation.
Hiring a professional grant writer and becoming less reliant on selling donated ad space.  
Revamping our Reach Florida program (selling small space regional ads), which is true profit to the bottom line.  
The creation of the FPA Young Professionals Group.
Retaining and recruiting mid-level sales managers through our newly funded LC2 program.
Finally, leveraging our new funding, we will be recruiting sales executives for our members through an “Elevate your Pitch” college sales competition, putting our media industry in the forefront of sophomores and juniors attending sales universities.

What keeps you up at night when wrestling with challenges?
A lot of things, but here’s my TOP three challenges:

  • New Public Notice Legislation on Jan 1.  All eyes are on Florida and we need to get this right!
  • Revenue Diversification: Publix makes up 68 percent of FPA’s revenue.  That’s scary
  • Eliminations of TMCs from our newspaper members and competition from Agenti and Media Space’s of the world eating our lunch.  We should own this type of media placement. Period.

The Florida Press Association recently scored three grants from the SNPA Foundation. How do you plan to use the money?
We have three new programs and I mentioned a few of these above already:

  • We are creating 5 new paid internships for members with a focus on minorities which will make FPA a placement agency for 15 paid interns in 2022. In 2021, our members hired two of the eight interns placed in the field.
  • Retaining and recruiting mid-level sales managers through our LC2 (Leadership, Conversation and Capstone) program. FPA is hosting 20-minute LinkedIn Live sessions for 26-weeks, with a daylong Capstone (American Press Institute-style) program at our Florida Media Conference.
  • Also leveraging our new funding, we will be recruiting sales executives for our members through an “Elevate your Pitch” college sales competition, putting our media industry in the forefront of sophomores and juniors attending sales universities. This program gives us the opportunity to tell our story to students with an interest in sales.

If you had unlimited resources to advance our industry, where would you invest your time and money? 
We really need to put our money where our mouth is and invest in a robust multimedia marketing campaign to tell our story LOUD and PROUD and not let anyone else do it for us.  We should be running ads during the SUPER BOWL!!!   We do the opposite at times and kill ourselves. We’re in the communication business and we suck at it.  I said it.

What are some of the best practices you’ve used to help guide newspapers to excel as a multimedia business?
Today, it’s about our unsurpassed combined digital and print reach in the markets we serve. Newspapers continue to say newspapers and we paint ourselves in a corner. We are in the media business providing news and information across many platforms. We have audiences that are affluent and well-educated, own a home, a car, have investments and are news junkies. Who doesn’t want to reach our audiences?  Most retailers and businesses do.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I love classic cars and going to classic car shows. I have owned six of them over the years, including a ’69 Vette convertible, ’70 Vette (454 big block) and an ’80 Vette, ’68 Firebird convertible, ’83 Buick Riviera convertible. I wish I still owned my pony white 1964½ Mustang Convertible. 

What do you like to do outside of work?   
I play ice hockey.  I skated on frozen ponds in upstate New York as a kid, played hockey in high school and in college.  I skated in adult hockey leagues in every market I have relocated to, including Florida.  Despite the warmth, there are many sheets of ice in Florida and I currently play on Wednesday nights in Orlando.  My team, the Basement BOLTZ, just won the Championship game, 5-3!  An awesome way to ring in the holiday.  Oh, did I mention, I’m very competitive?  I am!!!

Jim Fogler has been playing ice hockey since he was a kid growing up in the Northeast. His age 35+ team won the league’s 2021 Championship Game in December.

What would be your best career advice to a newcomer to newspapers? To a veteran with 10 to 15 years until retirement?
Newcomer – Lead, Inspire, Inform, and Innovate – embrace change as it’s the catalyst for growth. We are evolving and growing as an industry.  GROW with it and love what you do.  
Veteran – Be a great coach with all of your experience to all newcomers.  Our media landscape is changing at the speed of light. Today, you need to be more nimble than ever. Embrace change or you will be left behind.  

Anything else to add for a Closing Point?
We as an industry need to UNITE and get away from calling ourselves dailies and weeklies.  Today, our weeklies are dailies, and our dailies are becoming more like weeklies.  We should call ourselves Media. Period.

As told to Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

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