OFFBEAT: From farm to media CEO, Mary Junck returns to VU

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-04-04T00:00:00Z 2013-04-06T23:33:05Z OFFBEAT: From farm to media CEO, Mary Junck returns to VUBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

When I teach the introduction to mass media course at Valparaiso University, I use the textbook written by John Vivian.

The class is designed to give an overview of all the media disciplines, and this book devotes a chapter to each.

When you get to Chapter 4, dedicated to the world of newspapers, there's a large color photo of a very familiar face accompanied by a two-page explanation of Mary Junck's contribution to journalism and her promise to assure newspapers continue for very long time for future generations.

Junck is the chairman, president and CEO for Lee Enterprises, the company that owns and operates our newspaper The Times and more than 50 other daily newspapers around the county, ranking it as the second largest newspaper chain.

And she's also a 1969 graduate of Valparaiso University.

On Wednesday, after many years of being away, she returned to VU to spend the day visiting the campus, including presentations at the College of Business and also addressing journalism classes to participate in a Q&A session.

But first, here's what author Vivian has to say about Junck in the textbook we use on campus:

"Don't tell Mary Junck that newspapers are past their prime as a mass medium. Since 1999, when she took over the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain, circulation declines have been turned around at some Lee newspapers, stemmed at others. At most of the company's 58 dailies, circulation is growing. Through acquisitions, the daily newspaper circulation at Lee papers leaped 75 percent in one recent year. The most recent acquisition was Pulitzer, Inc., with 14 dailies and 100 weeklies. Pulitzer became a key part of Lee's future in 2005, including ownership of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, when a $1.5 billion merger was completed.

Lee, headquartered in Davenport, Iowa, is committed to newspapers. In 1999, it sold all its television stations to concentrate on newspapers. After shopping carefully for more dailies, Lee bought the 16-day Howard Publications chain in 2002, including the 92,000 Escondido, Calif. North County Times, and not far behind, The Times of Northwest Indiana and Illinois.

Junck, reared an Iowa farm girl, says the secret to success for 21st Century newspapers includes strong emphasis on local news. Her academic background is journalism and she edited the yearbook The Beacon at Valparaiso University. If anyone asks Junck about Lee's priorities, she whips out a business card with a five-point mission that includes 'Emphasize Strong Local News.' "

While chatting with students Wednesday, she said she was surprised to not recognize the VU campus, since so many of the buildings and landscape has changed, with the exception of The Chapel of the Resurrection. She said her studies at VU included English and teaching, with the latter being her father's idea as "a back-up plan." She did her student teaching assignment at Valparaiso High School and still remembers reading The Vidette-Messenger newspaper.

She and her husband, Ralph Gibson, (the couple met while both worked at The Miami Herald) have a son and a daughter. She is also the board chairman for The Associated Press.








The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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