Smith named new Empire publisher

Posted: Tuesday, January 02, 2001

Veteran newspaper executive Don Smith started work in Juneau this morning as the new publisher of the Juneau Empire.

Smith, 50, served for the past five years as regional manager of Morris Communications Corp.'s Colorado holdings. Morris Communications, based in Augusta, Ga., owns the Juneau Empire.

Smith was publisher of the Glenwood Post, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 5,500 in Glenwood Springs. He also was responsible for five weekly publications in a four-county area and an Internet portal, In Juneau he replaces John Winters, who transferred to the Morris-owned paper in Grand Island, Neb., in September.

Smith brings a comprehensive view of media to Juneau.

"I don't see the Juneau Empire as just a newspaper company," Smith said. "The newspaper will clearly be the fundamental focus of what we do, but we are a news and information and entertainment outlet. The delivery methods we use will extend beyond the newspaper."

Smith grew up in Hannibal, Mo., and studied business at the University of Missouri at Columbia. After graduating in 1971, he began his 30year career in the newspaper business in advertising at the newspaper in Columbia. He also worked in advertising at the newspaper in Hannibal, and in 1993 became a publisher in Yankton, S.D.

Smith said he was attracted to the frontier qualities of South Dakota, Western Colorado and Southeast Alaska.

"Juneau, being the state capital in a frontier state, is appealing to me," he said.

Smith and his wife Janet have four children, ages 2 to 16. They enjoy camping, hunting, fishing, skiing and outdoor recreation, and he said that was part of Juneau's appeal. He was drawn to Juneau as a place to raise his family and because of the culture and tourism.

"There's something about living in a place where people travel hundreds of miles to visit that makes it special," he said.

He said tourism has been a big part of many of the communities he's lived in. He said it is not a controversial issue in Western Colorado, as it is in Juneau. He said the biggest controversies his newspapers there tackled involved growth and development, and related legislation and transportation issues.

"There's an explosion of development and it created a very contentious environment," he said.

Smith said his goal here is to continue to keep the Empire responsive to the community.

"Good newspapers should be a strong public forum for a diversity of opinions, and should be accessible," he said.

"We were extremely pleased to have an executive of Don's caliber available when this opportunity occurred," said Jim Currow, vice president of the Metro Newspapers Division of Morris Communications. "Don is a veteran newspaper executive who has worked in multiple markets.

"He started his career in ad sales and went up through the ranks. He has done virtually every job in the industry. We know he will provide strong leadership and that he and his wife will become very valuable members of the Juneau community."

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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