Vineyard Gazette hires AP New York exec as next publisher

Jane Seagrave — Photo courtesy of AP

Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg, the new owners of the Vineyard Gazette, announced Friday that they had hired Jane Seagrave, a New York business executive with the Associated Press (AP), to be the next publisher of the Edgartown weekly.

Mr. Kohlberg made the announcement in the Gazette newsroom Thursday. He cited Ms. Seagrave’s leadership qualities as a key factor that led him and a search committee to choose her for the top post at the newspaper, according to a published report in Friday’s Gazette.

“The first thing we were looking for in a candidate was leadership,” Mr. Kohlberg told the Gazette. “There had been a void for a long time, and the newspaper staff has done wonders in keeping the paper going and holding its place.”

Ms. Seagrave, 56, has for the past year been AP’s chief revenue officer and played a key role in the news cooperative’s focus on digital revenue as it brought in less money from financially struggling newspapers and broadcasters during the past two years, according to an AP report on the departure of its executive.

Ms. Seagrave leaves an international news-gathering organization of more than 3,700 employees that provides print dispatches to publications around the world for a weekly community newspaper with an average annual on-Island circulation of fewer than 4,800 and total average circulation of 9,000, according to the Gazette’s 2010 second-class postal statement of circulation.

The AP reported that in an e-mail Friday to co-workers Ms. Seagrave described the move as an irresistible opportunity to return to her New England roots. She grew up in Darien, Connecticut and Maine, where she summered and attended college.

Ms. Seagrave has no reported Vineyard connections beyond past visits. She will join a staff that includes editor and veteran Gazette reporter Julia Wells, managing editor Lauren Martin, and senior writer Mike Seccombe, a native of Australia.

She and her husband, John H. Kennedy, a former Boston Globe reporter and journalism professor at La Salle University in Pennsylvania, plan to relocate from their home in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, to the Vineyard.

Ms. Seagrave first worked as an AP reporter beginning in 1980 in New Mexico. She left the AP in 1986 to go to graduate school at Harvard University and later worked at legal publications and a business technology news service before rejoining the company in 2003.

In comments to the Gazette, Ms. Seagrave said the Gazette “is a unique gem of a paper, quirky, literary, a fine piece of journalism, well respected and well known.”

She said the idea of connecting readers and service providers and that extended family of people that love the Island who don’t live there year-round seemed to her the kind of job that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

“The idea of living on an Island where I can be close to the beauty of nature and really be in my own personal element is appealing,” she told the Gazette.

“I think the Kohlbergs’ vision is to preserve some of the historic nature of the newspaper’s involvement in the community, to make it a teaching institution, and all those things are possible and I embrace them. It is taking what is a jewel and figuring out the best way to expand beyond that.”

In a story published November 25, former publisher Richard Reston announced that the Kohlbergs, longtime seasonal Island residents who live in Mt. Kisco, New York, had purchased the Vineyard Gazette for $3.5 million.

Under the terms of the deal, the Kohlbergs paid $1.5 million for the Gazette’s real estate and $2 million for the newspaper business.

In a linked deal, the Kohlbergs donated $1.5 million to the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust for the Trust’s purchase of the Gazette building, on the corner of South Summer Street and Davis Lane in Edgartown, that has housed the Gazette’s offices and printing press since 1938.

At the time of the purchase, Mr. Kohlberg said he and his wife decided that the Gazette was “a very worthwhile paper, an enterprise to preserve.”