The Miami Herald tapped its top editor to replace outgoing publisher Alexandra Villoch, and will for the first time combine the newsroom’s senior position with the head of the media organization’s business operations.
Aminda Marqués González, executive editor of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, assumes the title of publisher on April 15, and will retain the title of executive editor. Marqués, a Herald veteran, took over as editor in 2010.
Marqués was the first Hispanic and second woman to be named executive editor. She grew up in South Florida and began her journalism career in 1986 as an intern at the Herald. She was recently inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame and sits on the board of the Pulitzer Prizes. During her tenure, the Miami Herald has won two Pulitzer Prizes and has been a finalist three times.
“Who would have thought a kid from Hialeah would someday be in this position?” Marqués said to a standing ovation at the staff meeting announcing her promotion.
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Villoch, with nearly two decades of work for the Herald, became publisher in 2014 and now oversees a string of regional papers for McClatchy, the Herald’s parent company. She’s leaving for a senior position at Baptist Health, running its foundation and overseeing government, community relations and hospitality for the hospital system.
Marqués said Friday she thought stability was on the horizon as the Herald and McClatchy continue to ramp up digital subscribers and online revenue while cutting expenses.
“We’re forging a new path,” Marqués said at a staff meeting at the Miami Herald Media Company’s Doral headquarters on Friday morning. “Today I feel we’re really close to the clearing. We’re really close to getting to the other side.”
The merger of the editor and publisher positions comes amid a long stretch of cost-cutting and consolidation in McClatchy and other news chains, which have struggled under a continuing decline of print advertising.
A number of longtime Herald employees, including several from the newsroom, left last month during a company-wide round of voluntary early retirements. McClatchy’s Sacramento, California, headquarters this week reported a $28 million quarterly loss for the chain and knocked $21 million off the estimated value of its 30 newspaper brands.
McClatchy on Thursday reported a 5.2 percent increase in fourth-quarter digital ad revenue to $40 million — and a 26 percent drop of revenue from print, to $67 million. Digital subscriptions were up about 50 percent in 2018.
In remarks to the staff, Villoch touted the Herald’s growth in online audience.
“We’re a digital powerhouse,” Villoch said at the staff meeting. She recalled reading the Herald story announcing her promotion from advertising vice president to publisher five years ago.
“At that time, we were doing 8.8 million unique visitors” per month, she said. “Today, we’ve peaked at 22 million or 23 million. We average about 17 million.”
Villoch has been with the Miami Herald Media Company for 19 years, and served as senior vice president for advertising and marketing before being named president and publisher in 2014. Previously, she was with United Airlines as the general manager for Miami International Airport and the Caribbean. At Baptist, she will hold the title of CEO of the Baptist Health South Florida Foundation and report to Joe Natoli, a former Herald executive who now serves as the hospital system’s chief administrative officer.
The new management structure leaves Marqués in charge of the Miami newsroom and the news operations at the Bradenton Herald while also supervising the main revenue-generating operations in Miami, including advertising. In 2016, Tribune Publishing made a similar decision to combine the jobs of editor and publisher.
McClatchy Vice President Mark Zieman pointed to the company’s recent effort to shift more control of local operations to regional executives. Earlier this month, McClatchy announced a reworking of its sales operations that had the Herald’s advertising director reporting directly to Villoch, but also with a new arrangement of reporting to the head of advertising for the McClatchy chain as well.
“When I became a publisher many years ago, I had to leave my editing duties behind and focus on the revenue side of the business,” said Zieman, a former publisher of the Kansas City Star. “But today, McClatchy is a very different company. We’ve centralized all our revenue, production and audience functions.”
He also noted the company has already combined the editor and publisher posts at some smaller McClatchy papers, and that conflicts between advertising and news coverage can always get bumped up the corporate chain.
As part of Friday’s announcement, McClatchy also promoted the regional publisher for the Carolinas, Sara Glines, to also oversee the company’s East region, which includes the Herald. That combination encompasses 15 markets. Villoch had been regional publisher for the East region in addition to the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and the Bradenton Herald.
“If it’s a complaint that Mindy can handle without a conflict, she can handle it,” Zieman said. “If it’s a complaint that she wants to separate herself from because of some journalism that we did, she can bring in Sara.“