News Leadership 2011

Frank Blethen to receive ASNE Award for News Leadership
Posted 3/30/2011 8:27:00 AM


The American Society of News Editors will honor Frank A. Blethen, publisher and CEO of The Seattle Times, as the recipient of the ASNE Award for News Leadership. Blethen is the first non-editor to receive the award, which will be presented at ASNE's annual convention in San Diego, April 6-9.

Blethen's family founded The Seattle Times in 1896, and he has defied long odds to keep them at the helm of the company and to preserve the courageous, public-service journalism for which the newspaper has become known under his leadership.

Never in the 114 years of Blethen-family ownership was sustaining that commitment more challenging than in the decade past. Not only did The Times face the structural and economic challenges that every newspaper faced, it was locked in bitter litigation with a much larger corporate rival. The Blethens sold or put at risk nearly all of their other assets -- significant real-estate holdings and other, smaller newspapers – in order to save The Times.

The alternatives -- closing or selling the paper -- were anathema to Blethen, an outspoken opponent of news-media consolidation who believes that local ownership serves communities best.

The courage and commitment that helped him save his family's newspaper also has enabled him repeatedly to resist demands from powerful interests in the Northwest, including some advertisers, to stop investigative reporting by Times journalists. Time and again, Blethen not only stood by those journalists, he provided investigative resources far beyond that of like-sized newspapers.

That dedication has resulted in five Pulitzer Prizes and 13 Pulitzer finalists under Blethen's tenure. The news organization has also won nearly every other national award, from the Penney-Missouri for outstanding feature sections, to the Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10, to Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. The Times also was honored in 2010 by the Associated Press Managing Editors as “Innovator of the Year.”

“Sustaining vibrant newspaper journalism and its power to ensure that our self government works, and to give voice to all our communities' citizens, has been the core of my life's work,” said Blethen, who credits the journalists working at his paper for his success. “That ASNE would deem me worthy of this honor is very special, and humbling. Whatever I have accomplished is only because of the wonderful editors and reporters I have had the privilege to work with. This recognition is far more about them than me.”

Blethen also has been a national leader in the push for newsroom diversity, and The Times is consistently recognized as one of the country's most diverse newspapers. He was named a Most Notable Ambassador of Diversity by Proud magazine, and received the Chairperson’s Award of Special Merit from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

Blethen has been publisher and CEO of the Times since 1985, having joined the family business full-time in 1968. He held a variety of training positions at the Times until 1974 when he joined The Seattle Times-owned Walla Walla Union-Bulletin as publisher. He returned to The Times in 1980 and held executive positions in circulation, advertising, marketing and labor. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, and has done post-graduate work at Harvard.

The ASNE Award for News Leadership was first given in 2002 to recognize the men and women who guide America's newsrooms. Past recipients of the award are, in chronological order (job titles reflect their position as of the date of the award): Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal; H. Brandt Ayers, editor and publisher of The Anniston (Ala.) Star; John Carroll, editor of the Los Angeles Times; Zack Stalberg, editor of the Philadelphia Daily News; co-honorees Jim Amoss, editor of the Times-Picayune, New Orleans, and Stanley R. Tiner, executive editor of the The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss; Andrew E. Barnes, editor emeritus and retired chief executive officer, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times; Randell S. Beck, executive editor of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of the Washington Post; and Sandra Mims Rowe, former editor of the Oregonian in Portland, Ore.

ASNE, founded in 1922, is a membership organization for leaders of multimedia news organizations and deans and endowed chairs at accredited journalism schools. ASNE focuses on open government and the First Amendment, journalism education, leadership and diversity.

Presentation of ASNE Award for News Leadership