2014 Frank W. Mayborn Leadership Award

Steve Brandt honored with Mayborn Leadership Award

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Steven R. Brandt, president of The Greenville (S.C.) News, was presented the Frank W. Mayborn Leadership Award by the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association at its annual News Industry Summit.  The Mayborn Award recognizes outstanding newspaper executives for their vision, community leadership and significant contributions to the newspaper industry.

The award, presented annually by SNPA, is named for Frank W. Mayborn, the former editor and publisher of the Temple (Texas) Daily Telegram and the Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald, who served as SNPA president in 1961-62.  As a committee member, committee chair and SNPA director, Mayborn provided key leadership throughout the 1950s and 1960s that formed the basis for the organization's future growth and success.

Until his death in 1987, Mayborn also served as one of the leading figures in broadcast and print media in Central Texas.

SNPA President Tom Silvestri (right) presents Steven R. Brandt with the Frank W. Mayborn Leadership Award at the News Industry Summit (Photo: Melody Robbins Photography)
The award was announced by SNPA President Tom Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. Silvestri said the timing of this year's award is especially fitting because Brandt "is closing a long and notable career."  This summer, he announced plans to retire from The Greenville News and on Sept. 1, he turned the title of publisher of The News over to Dave Neill. 

Brandt spent a total of 17 years leading The News, which is where he began his career in 1978.  At the end of this month, he will leave the newspaper altogether to enter full-time retirement.

Like former recipients Walter Hussman, Derek Dunn-Rankin, Stewart Bryan, Frank Daniels, Mary Jacobus, Ashton Phelps, Jim Boone, Lissa Vahldiek, Ogden Nutting and Gregg Jones – Brandt has forged a storied career.

In accepting the award, Brandt recognized the contributions of the countless dedicated newspaper people and staff who "birthed and sustained this organization over the last 111 years."  And, he cited two in particular from opposite ends of the SNPA timeline: Walter C. Johnson Sr. and Walter Hussman.

Brandt said: "In 1913, after 10 years of steady growth, SNPA needed more focused administrative leadership.  Walter C. Johnson Sr., the general manager of the Chattanooga News, agreed to serve as the volunteer secretary-treasurer, a role he filled for the next 11 years, until the first paid staff member was hired in 1924."

He noted that "Johnson was active in SNPA affairs for 40 years.  Among many significant contributions, Johnson launched the SNPA Bulletin and quickly turned it into a leading industry publication."

"Ninety years after Walter C. Johnson Sr. stepped forward to provide the management essential to sustain SNPA's forward momentum," Brandt said "another Walter became president.  Already a major force in SNPA, Walter Hussman dedicated his year as president to building the SNPA endowment to ensure a reliable source of funding for the newly-launched Traveling Campus and other SNPA training and development programs."

"During that year," Brandt said, "through Walter Hussman's solicitation efforts, his leadership in rallying other volunteers and his own personal contributions, the endowment grew to a level that was both sustainable and able to provide meaningful annual funding to the new SNPA training initiatives."

He said, "In between the two Walters, and since, SNPA has been carried forward by thousands of dedicated individuals.  I count myself to be blessed to be one of them."

Brandt's leadership role began at The News when it was owned by Multimedia, and it continued when the newspaper was acquired by Gannett. In that time, he was not only an outstanding leader for the newspaper, but also a leader in the city of Greenville.

Silvestri quoted several industry executives about the value that Brandt brought to his newspaper, his community and SNPA:

  • Bern Mebane, Brandt's mentor and his predecessor as publisher at The News, said:  "His leadership and plain hard work made The News a leader in news, in audience growth and in profitability at a time when other businesses in a mature industry were going the other direction. I am proud of what Steve has accomplished in his long career and glad to be his friend."
  • Chris Weston, a former managing editor of The News, said: "Steve's long and distinguished career has demonstrated the power of principled leadership. He has been faithful to the best interests of the readers of The Greenville News through his leadership and support of public service journalism to improve the lives in this community and throughout the state. His civic dedication cannot be overstated."
  • John Pittman, the recently-retired executive editor of The News, agreed: "No one has done more to promote this community, in his role as publisher and his active involvement in countless organizations over the years. He has touched the lives of virtually everyone here in one way or another. There's no better model for those who follow in his footsteps."

(left to right) Steve Brandt with his wife, Scottie Lu, and their son. (Photo: Melody Robbins Photography)
"Just as it must be hard for people in Greenville to get used to the idea of The News without Steve as its publisher, it also will be difficult for members of SNPA to imagine the newspaper industry without him leading the way," Silvestri said.

He noted that Brandt has been a member of SNPA's Diversity, Marketing, Strategic Planning, Audit and New Media/Convergence committees, and he was the first chairman of the Audience Development Committee, which planned SNPA's first Audience Development Conference in 2008.

Brandt served as president of SNPA from 2009 to 2010, at the depths of the Great Recession, which had a major impact on SNPA.  Brandt led the effort to analyze and rethink organizational finances. "It was a pivotal point for SNPA," Silvestri said, "and his effort was successful. He made a powerful impact at a crucial time."

Silvestri said, "Steve represents a model for many publishers within SNPA. He wrapped his publishing efforts around the identity of his community. When your community excels, you excel. He shows publishing really matters. It's a business, yes. But it's a calling even more. This award is all about dedication, and Steve Brandt is a winner."

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