A few days after Idaho Statesman publisher Mike Jung announced his departure, he was picking up a prescription and had what he considers a quintessential Boise experience with another Walgreens shopper.
“I don’t think I knew the person,” he says, “but she said, ‘I’m really sorry to see you leave.’”
The next day, he was jogging on the Boise Greenbelt, and 12 people waved or said hello during his run.
Jung, 57, describes Boise as warm and welcoming, with “zero degrees of separation.” He says the Treasure Valley is the best market served by the McClatchy Co., the California company that owns the newspaper, and a place of “rarefied air.”
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But he is looking forward to returning to Florida, where he spent much of his career, and to reuniting with a boss he had for 10 years in the Bay Area before moving to Idaho in 2011. Florida, with its older population, “is a very good newspaper-reading state.”
The Statesman has begun a months-long overhaul of its news coverage, design and operations. It also is using native advertising — content supplied by the advertiser for the Statesman to distribute “the message to the biggest audience we have,” Jung says. The company is tapping new revenue sources through Statesman-organized events, such as a professional development day to accompany this year’s Idaho Private 75 event.
Q: Who are some Treasure Valley business leaders you’ve come to rely on for their opinions, or as mentors?
A: Skip Oppenheimer (CEO of Oppenheimer Cos.) — I see his passion, his caring for the community, his business leadership. He made an early outreach to me. I see him as a friend and mentor. Another is Darrel Anderson (CEO of IdaCorp and Idaho Power). We’ve spent time together talking about business and the community. Nora Carpenter, who I worked with at the United Way, and Jim Everett (retired CEO of Treasure Valley YMCA) ... his vision and commitment, his clarity. Rich Raimondi — following his retirement from HP, going to work as president of Bishop Kelly and devoting his life to education and community. He kind of got me plugged in and understood how things not only work here but how things could be improved here.
It’s not just the CEOs. I think Boise is a place where individual contributors can, and do, roll up their sleeves. It’s not just the CEO and the president, it’s Joe Citizen that says, “I want to make a difference.”
Q: What have you learned at the Idaho Statesman?
A: We have to be adaptive, and we have to be empathetic of how we manage and motivate and inspire people, from a 22-year-old to a 66-year-old. It’s been a learning curve. I’ve learned to be patient, I think, and adaptive and nimble. It’s like any business: We’re being challenged. And I think as leaders you have to have some calm and sensitivity, and that’s come with the territory in the last four years. And I think people are looking for the connection.
Q: What are the Statesman and McClatchy doing to regain revenue?
A: McClatchy and the Statesman are reaching out to readers and advertisers to get informed. We surveyed close to 800 people, and as we understand what reader passions are, that will make an important mark, because we will have much better information than we have had in the past. As the audience grows, advertisers can benefit from that audience.
The Statesman is multilayered and multichannel: mobile, tablet or desktop or social media, with print is important. It’s not just one way to the reader.
We ask for input. Just this past week, we helped readers select what the editorial cartoon was going to be. They helped select what the comics will be. I think we’ve learned a lot, too, and we’ve admitted when we didn’t get it right. We’ll make a return to have sports on the cover Aug. 24. We heard from readers, so we’re sort of pivoting.
I think the future for newspapers is bright.
Q: The newsroom staff is smaller than when you arrived, there have been layoffs, we outsourced our call center. What did you think about as you made those decisions?
A: It was extremely difficult. Whenever you affect the personal lives of people, it weighs heavily, and you don’t sleep well, and those are difficult business decisions that you have to make. You affect people’s lives, it’s hurtful, and at the same time, you try to make the best decisions for the enterprise, the organization, for the future. But you can’t look beyond somebody who’s going to be without a job. ... It’s also managers who are also part of the trickle-down. And you see friends and colleagues who aren’t here, and perhaps you may be picking up more slack, you may be picking up more work. So, it’s been really difficult. And I value and honor and respect the way the team has rallied around that. I think people here are resilient. I’m really particularly proud of the way that the team has rallied here, and it’s really kept the ship in the right direction under some challenging times.
Q: You feel like you’re leaving the paper better than you found it?
A: I do. I think we’re positioned to grow, as I’ve said a lot in the past. We really need to focus on growing both audience as well as revenue. While we may not have more resources, our resources are placed in the right places to make that difference. As well as I think we’ve got the talent to do it. We’ll always be challenged, but we’re on the cusp of turning that corner and seeing that type of success. I don’t take credit for it, but I think we’re in a good place.
I look forward to seeing how (the overhaul initiative) is going to be rolled out and implemented. I see it as sort of a catalytic experience for folks here, in unifying the organization on the same page.
Q: Online revenue is on the rise, but in sheer dollars, it isn’t making up for declines in print revenue. Is the Statesman going to be able to capture more digital revenue? What’s the strategy?
A: On the digital side, not only is audience growing, we have so many more effective solutions that are available for advertisers. When I arrived four years ago, we pretty much just sold banner ads on our website. (Now the variety of advertising options includes) retargeting, brand extension, reputation management, search engine marketing and search engine optimization. All those things are relatively new, so you will see those solutions being part of a package that advertisers are taking advantage of. Our audience is growing. Solution sets are growing rapidly as well. And video will bring greater engagement.
Is it going to happen easily? No. Do we need to be smart about it? Yes. We still need to look at resources and talent to make sure we have the best in both of those areas to really optimize on teh revenue side.
Dinner w/Faisal Shah, aka The Godfather, rock star entrepreneur, all around good guy#whyiwillmissBoise pic.twitter.com/lLPm7Rg1RB— Michael Jung (@michaeldjung) August 14, 2015
Edited for clarity and length. Audrey Dutton: 377-6448; Twitter: @IDS_Audrey