Editor & Publisher

Alan Wooten

Managing Editor, Franklin News Foundation and its flagship project, The Center Square, Chicago

First job in news:

It was as a sportswriter at The Farmville Enterprise before college and then at The Wilson Daily Times after college.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned while working in news?

People — Each has a unique story to share or tell. As journalists, we are entrusted not only by them but also by the audience we deliver to. It sets us apart from the megaphone world that purports to serve up news and information.

Teams — There’s been a team at every stop along the journey. College and high school football taught great lessons on teamwork, and my love for golf always reinforces integrity. Both of those are in my journalism. Wonderful leaders shaped me, and there’s heartfelt gratitude for Jim Hockaday, Tom Ham, Patrick Holmes, John Huff, John Rains, Tom Mayer, James Edwards, Bill Horner III, Lorry Williams, Denise Ward and Scott Champion, and even more so to my brother Eddie Wooten. There would have been no career here without Eddie, Mr. Hockaday and Tom.

Journalism — It’s important, useful or entertaining, and sometimes a combination. Those guideposts always shaped the front page and what was inside the newspaper, too. Today, amid so many industry changes, those are good to remember as we do our work. Each time someone hears a description of what we do at The Center Square, it’s refreshing to hear there’s an appetite for how we do it.

Change — Life’s most consistent rule is it constantly changes. And our industry has been changing ever since the first printing press. For various reasons, It seems to be more visible to so many today. Rest assured, every industry changes. Being flexible to meet those challenges is pivotal for success. Even a self-described “old-fashioned editor” has allowed himself to “think outside the box” and find he likes it.

When you reflect on your career to date, what brings you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

Even before becoming a sports editor in 1994, people were around on our teams to help in different ways. Three decades of management have brought more opportunities, and seeing others move on to greater successes — even if not in my industry, instead choosing another — has brought great joy. When my experiences can be shared in a way that helps another on my team, there’s great joy. And when in a coachable moment with a colleague, those “light bulb moments” never get old.

What are your predictions for where news publishing/news media is heading?

Hopefully, it is heading for a rebirth into where we started. Getting there is a heckuva challenge. The polarized sides that tell many what they wish to hear and then are not properly questioned by the audience serve only to keep us distant as people and uninformed. Information, after all, is the heart of what we do. Truth and honesty in the media, with real reporting of facts, are greatly needed. Many people want that, and the equation requires their support to be stronger than influential partisans. Heckuva challenge, indeed.

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Editor and Publisher