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New CA Publisher on Adaptability & Mentors [CROSSROADS PREVIEW]

New Commercial Appeal President and Publisher, George Cogswell, III. Photo by Troy Glasgow.
Communications intern, Akira Clay-Hill got the opportunity to sit down with George Cogswell III, president and publisher of The Commercial Appeal for the 2012 Winter issue of Memphis Crossroads Magazine.  In addition to the full story, Akira asked Cogswell to discuss how mentorship affected his career, found out a little more about this new transplant to Memphis and how social media has affected the newspaper business.

Q: Did you have any mentors when you were just starting out?

I most certainly did. I had many mentors. One of my favorites was a former boss. He would always say "George, let your conscience be your guide." He would say it jokingly if I asked to leave early or something, but it stuck with me. He really just meant do the right thing. Now, as leader of The Commercial Appeal, it’s of the utmost importance to me that I create a single culture inside these walls of absolute equality, mutual respect, and honesty. That’s the order of the day, and it all begins and ends with my consistent leadership.

Did you face any challenges early on where you wished for a mentor’s help, but didn’t have it? What was the outcome?

Any newspaper publisher’s greatest challenge came in late 2007/early 2008 when, as we were figuring out what we were to become digitally, the economy went upside down. What that meant challenge-wise was that now it’s not about figuring out what you’re going to be. It's about absolute survival as a business and as an industry. This led to my being part of many decisions that I had never before considered, like consolidation and ugly words like outsourcing, centralization and job eliminations. We had to move forward through all these tough things to not just survive, but to position our business for a long and prosperous future.

How did social media change how your publication was run or did it?

Now, mostly everyone in the newsroom is participating in some or all forms of social media. We have a very strong presence on Facebook. Most of our journalists tweet. I think it’s critically important that we continue to plant seeds, specifically with younger, non-newspaper readers. If we will continue to plant those seeds, keeping us top of mind when there are important things going on in Memphis, they will know where to go. Social media is one avenue we can use to not let them forget that we’ve been here for a long time and we’re not going away. When they need what we’ve got, we’re here. It’s just like inviting someone into your house. That what social media does.

What is your message to others who may want to be in your industry?

I really have two full-time jobs, and I’m proud of that. One is doing and accomplishing things here at 495 Union Avenue. The other job is being deeply involved in the community that we serve. I work with non-profits. I go to events. I’m on committees. When I left Ventura County, I resigned from twelve Boards of Directors. Half of those were tied to economic development, and the other half focused on improving the lives of children. I put 100 percent of myself into what I do. You have to. This is not just one full-time job; it’s two.

Did you always want to be in the newspaper business?

When I was little I wanted to be a pilot. I even started taking my pilot license training a few years back, but I learned that I probably don’t have the patience to be a pilot. I’d rather keep both feet on the ground.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to cook. I love cooking on my grill. I’d like to think that my ribs are better than anyone’s. Secretly, I’m a karaoke singer who used to be a karaoke DJ back in the day.

-- Akira Clay-Hill
Posted: 11/29/2012 9:06:39 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: appeal, blog, chamber, cogswell, commercial, media, memphis, mentor, mentorship, news, newspaper, president, publisher, social

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