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New Herald-Mail publisher has open dialogue with community leaders

September 14, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Herald-Mail Publisher Andy Bruns answered questions and talked about the news organization Wednesday at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Andy Bruns, The Herald-Mail’s new publisher, invited a breakfast crowd to fire away Wednesday morning — and they did.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II asked about the newspaper’s coverage of the city’s attempt to build up downtown.

He said he was told The Frederick News-Post championed Frederick’s renaissance starting 30 years ago, but “we don’t have that here.”

Bruchey also asked Bruns about a recent Herald-Mail headline that a stabbing in the 300 block of North Jonathan Street, north of Franklin Street, happened “downtown.” He said it was inaccurate and feeds into a negative image of downtown.

Speaking at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast, Bruns said he started out as an advertising sales representative.

For about five years, he’s been publisher of the Daily American in Somerset, Pa. Bruns took over as publisher of The Herald-Mail after John League retired in July.

Bruns now oversees both the Daily American and The Herald-Mail, which are owned by Schurz Communications Inc.

Before Bruchey’s question, Bruns discussed what he sees as a top goal for a newspaper.

“When the region is a great place to work and live and play and people have good families, sustaining jobs, et cetera, then our model’s real easy because people will want to read about it, people will want to advertise in it,” Bruns said. “Our first job is to champion those causes that will make this a better place to work and play.”

He said a new shop hiring five employees in this struggling economy is a bigger story than a factory closing and cutting 20 jobs.

Asked about the newspaper’s Mail Call feature, in which people anonymously speak their mind, Bruns called it an immensely popular “two-way conversation.” If The Herald-Mail shut it down, it would pop up somewhere else and lure readers away, he said.

Bruns was asked why The Herald-Mail published the names and salaries of local city, county and school district employees in a recent series.

Bruns said it’s essential to “shine a light” on government and its use of tax dollars. He cited a small city in California where officials were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars — until The Los Angeles Times exposed it.

Hagerstown Councilman Martin E. Brubaker wondered why positions and salaries couldn’t have been printed without employees’ names.

Bruns said that was a point worth discussing.

“If all I do is try to tick off the least number of people possible every day, I’m not going to be around long,” he said.

Bruns talked about the rapid evolution of the news business, with numerous deadlines per day, and the practice of giving away a product — news — online.

“We’re going to have to find a way to charge something for that,” he said.

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