Statesman gets a new publisher

Idaho Statesman publisher Rebecca Poynter.
Idaho Statesman publisher Rebecca Poynter.

The Idaho Statesman is getting a new publisher. Rebecca Poynter was named by McClatchy, the media company that owns the Statesman.

Poynter comes from Gannett Co., where she most recently led a group of Michigan newspapers. She succeeds Debra Leithauser, who left the Statesman in December to lead the communications department at Idaho Power.

She will lead a business founded in 1864 that has transformed its news and advertising staffs to serve digital audiences, in addition to print readers. Poynter brings deep experience in sales and senior leadership at Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper company.

"The Statesman is a wonderful, historical voice of Idaho," Poynter said. "I feel I can help the Statesman and the community with my vast background working with different publishing organizations. I've been a part of big changes in the organizations I've worked at. ... My thing is to help the Statesman develop the things the Statesman is great at."

Born and raised in Kentucky, Poynter earned a journalism degree from the University of Kentucky. After graduation, she worked in sales for Coca-Cola. Her first media sales job was in 1997 as a sales representative for the Detroit Media Partnership, a business that jointly published both the Detroit News, then owned by Gannett, and the Detroit Free Press, which Gannett acquired eight years later when it sold the News.

Poynter later worked for the Gannett-owned Army Times and USA Today, and in Kentucky for the Lexington Herald-Leader, now owned by McClatchy. In 2007 she returned to Michigan to take on senior advertising roles for Gannett in Detroit. In 2016, she moved to Lansing to oversee the State Journal and Gannett's papers in Port Huron, Battle Creek, Howell, Livonia and Northville.

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Idaho Statesman publisher Rebecca Poynter. Katherine Jones kjones@idahostatesman.com

She presided over the Lansing State Journal's coverage of the sexual-abuse scandal at Michigan State University involving former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Last December, the State Journal called for the resignation of Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon, saying she had failed to keep women safe from abuse and harassment on campus.

"That failure belongs to Simon and her team," the State Journal wrote in a front-page editorial. " The time has come to hold her accountable."

Readers at first were divided about the editorial, but a consensus emerged as other outlets soon followed the State Journal's lead, Poynter said. Simon stepped down in January.

"The tide moved," Poynter said. "That's what you do as a news organization."

Poynter said she is proud of the work the State Journal's reporting staff did to further the Nassar story after Gannett's Indianapolis Star broke it in 2016.

In Boise, she said, her first goal will be "to quickly get up to speed" about the Statesman's staff, her new colleagues across McClatchy, and goals and benchmarks for the news and advertising departments. Next will be to meet local business, government and other leaders.

She said she will look for new opportunities to engage readers in news, advertising and community events. "I'm very passionate about telling the story of what we do as a news organization," she said. "No one has the content that we do."

Poynter will report to Gary Wortel, McClatchy's West regional publisher, who is based in Sacramento. McClatchy operates 30 media companies in 14 states, including the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee and The Charlotte Observer.

This story has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly identified the company that owned the Lexington Herald-Leader before McClatchy bought it in 2006.