Leadership

Newspaper Association Taps Outsider for Top Job

By / Oct 6, 2015 (Zoonar RF/ThinkStock)

David Chavern comes to NAA with roots in manufacturing and tech, which may be a boon for another disrupted industry.

Last week, the Newspaper Association of America announced that David Chavern is its new president and CEO. The move is notable in that Chavern, previously with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, comes to NAA with no background in news media. His predecessor, Caroline Little, was a CEO with Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive and the Guardian; she was preceded by John Sturm, who handled government affairs for CBS.

In an interview with Poynter, Chavern addressed his background, emphasizing his skill at managing industries that have been disrupted. (Which is certainly the case for the news business.)

“Newspapers are an industry undergoing a difficult transition,” he said. “[At the Chamber] one of my jobs was to go around the country making speeches about manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing has been through 20 years like you’ve never seen. But they are coming out the other side now and doing well in some unexpected ways.”

Chavern also highlighted his background in the technology industry: Since last year, after a stint as the Chamber’s COO, he’s headed the Chamber’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, where he “led a research and outreach program which was dedicated to the economic power of data-driven innovation.”

He told NetNewsCheck that the role familiarized him with the ways companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook use news content, which makes him well positioned to negotiate on NAA’s behalf.

“I’ve got good relationships with all of those organizations from my time at the Chamber,” he said. “I’m not going to kid myself that I’m going to generate some great commercial peace agreement, but what I can do is make sure that those folks understand the perspectives of the newspaper industry and give my members some insights into how the big platforms are looking at the world.”

Media pundit and New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted that Chavern’s status an outsider was likely an asset:

Of course, within the association community, the question of industry versus association experience has been a much-debated subject.

Arnie Robbins, who came from a newsroom to serve as executive director of the American Society of News Editors from 2012 to earlier this year, told Associations Now Plus [member login required] that “the critical thing is, do you know the right questions to ask so that people who do know the answers can help?”

Donna Dunn told AssociationsNow.com last year that an outsider has inherent benefits. “Someone who isn’t actively involved may have an ability to see things that might not otherwise be seen by someone who has been raised in the industry,” she said.

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. More »

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