‘Leadership, community involvement and vision’

Editor & Publisher magazine announced today that it has selected Dennis Francis, president and publisher of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, as its Publisher of the Year.

“Ever since 2010, when Francis, 55, merged Hawaii’s two rival and heretofore struggling newspapers into one now thriving one, he has made himself and all those who work with him winners. For that, Editor & Publisher selected Francis as Publisher of the Year,” the industry’s authoritative magazine said.

Ed Zindel, managing editor of E&P, said Francis “has shown great leadership, community involvement and vision.”

He said Francis was chosen from among 58 nominations received from around the world, including publishers from large, well-known papers.

“While I am honored to receive this award, it should really be referred to as the Newspaper of the Year,” Francis said, “because it is the talented management team and staff that has produced the strong results we have seen since the merger.”

Francis was the general manager at the Honolulu Advertiser when David Black, who bought the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2001, enticed him to take charge of the Star-Bulletin in 2004. In a move that E&P said “was considered incredibly daring,” Star-Bulletin owner Oahu Publications Inc. in 2010 acquired the Advertiser from Gannett Co. and merged the papers into the Star-Advertiser, which has grown substantially.

Oahu Publications acquired The Garden Island earlier this year from Lee Enterprises.

Francis is president of The Garden Island newspaper.

“Dennis has given The Garden Island the support and resources that have allowed us to improve our editorial content and provide the kind of news coverage Kauai residents deserve,” said Bill Buley, TGI editor-in-chief.

Under Francis, new magazines, a USA Today Hawaii Edition and a host of special sections and inserts were launched and a paywall for staradvertiser.com began. All these initiatives have been successful and driven revenue, which in turn has strengthened news products.

The Star-Advertiser’s daily circulation (print and digital replica) grew 38.9 percent from December 2010 to December 2012, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks the newspaper industry. Based on the six months ended last March, the organization ranked the Star-Advertiser as the 21st largest paper in the country, up from  No. 25 in September 2012 and No. 67 in March 2011.

“This is a story about a risk-taking leader who was able to combine two failing newspapers into one profitable, growing newspaper,” said Dave Kennedy, senior vice president/marketing. “Dennis Francis drew from his industry experience, business know-how and understanding of the community to assemble and motivate his team and succeed at a time when many said newspapers were dying.”

As part of his mission, Francis is active in many community organizations. He serves on the boards of numerous nonprofits and is chairman of the board for the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the Star-Advertiser in 2012 gave more than $1.6 million to charities, groups, organizations and the arts in the state.

“It was obvious to us that Dennis’ leadership in successfully spearheading the merging of the newspapers was a great trait,” said E&P’s Zindel. “But we were also impressed with the deep support he has shown the Hawaii community over the years.

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