Perhaps it is to be expected in an industry noted for its legacy businesses, but whether their companies consist of a single publication or dozens of media enterprises, families are dominant forces in newspapers.
It follows then, that families have often played important leadership roles in industry support organizations such as Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. That’s the case this year as Charles Hill Morris becomes president of SNPA. He was elected Tuesday morning, Oct. 7, during SNPA’s News Industry Summit in Charlottesville, Va.
Morris is regional manager for Morris Multimedia Inc.’s media businesses in north Georgia, Tennessee, northern California and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is the son of Charles H. Morris, the founder of Morris Multimedia Inc., and grandson of William S. Morris Jr., a publisher of four large daily newspapers in Georgia, and Florence Hill Morris, an editor and columnist for the family’s publications.
Like generations of so many newspaper families, he grew up in the industry, learning the family business as it grew. Morris Multimedia today owns and operates 65 publications, network affiliate television stations and other ventures in nine states and the Caribbean.
“I have always wanted to be a part of the business that my father founded 44 years ago,” he says. “I have fond memories of working in the composing departments of some of our papers for a summer job, learning how to set ads and lay out publications.”
Morris’ experience isn’t limited to just the family business though. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the University of Georgia, and after college he joined Northcliffe Newspapers, a regional publishing arm of the Daily Mail and General Trust Group of London, for a year. He then moved back to Georgia to join the advertising department of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Since rejoining Morris Multimedia, he has been publisher of St. Thomas This Week in the Virgin Islands, national sales director for WCBI-TV in Columbus, Miss., and publisher of The Covington (Ga.) News before taking on his current role overseeing company operations in the Southeast, California and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Today, I enjoy most working with our wonderful people and making a difference in the communities where we operate local media companies,” he says. “Our coverage and reporting plays a crucial role in the communities where we operate media companies.”
Morris’ family has been part of SNPA’s growth through the years too. “My father talks about going to SNPA meetings with my grandfather. SNPA has been a family tradition for three generations. I have personally been involved with SNPA over the last 18 years. Over these many years of involvement, I have had the opportunity to make connections with leaders of newspapers both large and small. Many of these people have become trusted friends and contacts that I have called on throughout the years for advice and counsel,” Morris says.
“SNPA has a wonderful balance of looking ahead while at the same time preserving the traditions and legacy of friendship and camaraderie that are the hallmarks of the SNPA experience.”
As all forms of media seek to find similar balance - embracing the possibilities of digital technology while still keeping focus on the basics of the businesses that have grown and sustained them over decades - Morris Multimedia has been at the forefront. Its newspapers have been early adopters of digital applications and integration, always willing to experiment with sensible new ideas while never abandoning the core principles of the business. And while Morris says the company is expecting more for its businesses and feels a lot more work needs to be done in the digital arena, it has certainly been a guiding light down the path for others to follow.
That experience gives Morris a unique skill set with which to lead SNPA for the next year.
“SNPA is on a great trajectory, thanks in large part to the vision of its leaders, the staff and boards both present and past. I look to build upon that foundation and continue the work of helping the industry develop a sustainable community journalism model in the digital era,” Morris says.
“I am flattered and humbled to have been elected to lead such a prestigious and honorable organization. SNPA and its members and leaders have done so much, both recently and in years gone by, to help the industry work through challenging times through collaboration and action.”