Edward VanHorn, who went to work for SNPA 43 years ago straight out of the University of North Carolina, was honored Monday at the inaugural meeting of America's Newspapers as this year's recipient of the Frank W. Mayborn Leadership Award. The award is named for the Texas newspaperman who helped shape SNPA in the early 1950s and served as president from 1961 to 1962.
"He's been that silent leader behind the newspaper industry and SNPA," said SNPA President PJ Browning, president and publisher of The Post and Courier in Charleston, Souther Carolina. "We're honored to have the opportunity to give him this award as he's retiring. We thought it was very fitting."
VanHorn, 65, left Atlanta last year for a new home in downtown Chicago and has spent most of the year working on the SNPA-Inland merger. "I was an enthusiastic supporter of the merger long before the plan was set. It was an inevitable move," he said.
VanHorn was hired in 1977 by Reed Sarratt, who served as executive director of SNPA from 1973 until his death in 1986. VanHorn started out as an information assistant. He became editor of the Bulletin in 1980, assistant director in 1981 and executive director in 2001.
VanHorn is quick to give credit for his longevity with SNPA to others. "I have always been part of an amazing team," he said. "Cindy Durham, Paulette Sheffield and Greg Watson are the backbone of SNPA." He considers Sarratt and Reg Ivory, Sarratt's successor, to be his mentors and praises the support of his family. And he commends the publishers with whom he has worked.
"I've always been surrounded by smart, dedicated newspaper professionals who understood that they have a critical responsibility in our society," he said. "That job is more important than ever in this digital age."
Publishers within SNPA speak of VanHorn's quiet leadership and ability to react to the vast changes in the industry.
"It's hard to think of having anyone better than Edward," said Walter Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "He's been very effective. He's been great at communications. He's great at predicting what's going to happen and what we need to do to respond."
Hussman cited VanHorn's involvement in getting the SNPA Foundation's Traveling Campus program off the ground in 2001 and in leading efforts to create an endowment to fund it; that endowment helped to shore up the organization when hard times came after 2006.
Tom Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, described VanHorn as "a servant-leader."
"He's a gentleman," Silvestri said of VanHorn. "He's got a great sense of humor. He's done an amazing job through the industry's ups and downs. He's taken care of SNPA so board members don't have to worry about the day-to-day business."
Gregg Jones, executive vice president of Adams Publishing Group and publisher of The Greeneville Sun in Tennessee, said: "I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Edward VanHorn. His vision, talent, energy and love for SNPA and its members have molded SNPA from the late 1970s to the present day. He has been SNPA's staunchest advocate. SNPA would simply not be the great organization it is today had it not been for his steadfast dedication."
Jones, who also is a previous Mayborn Award recipient, said: "I am proud to be among the Mayborn Award recipients, but I am more honored about that appellation than ever – and I know other Mayborn Award recipients will join me in this feeling – knowing that our dear friend and highly respected colleague is joining our ranks."
VanHorn looks forward to seeing the new association become a more activist group, giving publishers the tools to educate their communities about what they do.
"What newspapers do is important," VanHorn said. "There has never been a time when credible journalism was more important. Newspapers are the purveyors of truth – I would say the only truly reliable source."
2004 – Walter Hussman Jr., Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and WEHCO Media
2005 – Derek Dunn-Rankin, Sun Coast Media Group
2006 – Ashton Phelps Jr., The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana
2007 – J. Stewart Bryan III, Media General
2008 – Lissa Walls Cribb, Southern Newspapers, Inc.
2009 – Mary Jacobus, New York Times Regional Media Group (presented posthumously)
2010 – James B. Boone Jr., Boone Newspapers
2011 – Frank Daniels Jr., The Pilot (Southern Pines, North Carolina) and The News and Observer Publishing Company (Raleigh, North Carolina)
2012 – G. Ogden Nutting, Ogden Newspapers
2013 – Gregg Jones, Jones Media and The Greeneville Sun (now Adams Publishing Group)
2014 – Steven R. Brandt, The Greenville News, Greenville, Scouth Carolina
2015 – Ivan V. "Andy" Anderson, The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina) and Evening Post Publishing Co.
2016 – James M. Moroney, The Dallas Morning News and A.H. Belo Corporation
2017 – Charles H. Morris Sr., Morris Multimedia Inc.
2018 – Tom Silvestri, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia