Nominated as SNPA president
A spark of inspiration led Les Simpson to pursue his passion for journalism.
When he was a broadcast journalism student at the University of Georgia, Simpson planned to attend law school. But these plans changed when he encountered Conrad Fink, a UGA journalism professor who was a former vice president for The Associated Press.
Fink had a saying: "Thousands of students show up at the University of Georgia every year and I just try to save a few."
"Fortunately," Simpson said, "he saved me."
He says Fink showed him that journalism is "an exciting and important career" that can impact a community. Simpson changed his major to newspapers and charted his path to a career in the industry.
Simpson started his newspaper career in a media management internship program at The Augusta Chronicle, a program created by Fink and William S. "Billy" Morris III, CEO of Morris Communications. This opportunity gave Simpson a broad overview of the newspaper industry through work in news, accounting and advertising.
Simpson then worked in the newsroom for more than a decade before working in overall newspaper management. He has worked for Morris Communications for more than 30 years now, and has served as publisher of the Amarillo Globe-News since 2002.
"We have a very strong newsroom that covers the community and holds our elected officials accountable. We help contribute to the community and make it better," he said. "Newspapers are one of the few institutions in the community that really serve the entire community."
Part of Simpson's plans for SNPA next year is to reassert the importance of newspapers' role in our society and develop strategies to improve the public's perception of the industry.
Simpson also is concerned about negativity within the industry. He remains positive about where newspapers are now and where they are heading, and he sees both challenges and opportunities in the newspaper world.
"We're going to go out and fight the battle, and we're going to win some and lose some, but I just hope we can bring a level of energy to what we do so that, as an organization of publishers, we can go back and create excitement and create a way to be innovative for the future and chart out our path for success."
"Our country really can't afford to not have newspapers doing the job that we've done for several hundred years," he said.
Simpson also has served the Amarillo community in several roles ranging from being the chair of the annual United Way campaign to establishing and serving as board president of Downtown Amarillo Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing the city's core.
He received the Frank. W. Mayborn Award for Community Leadership in 2010 from the Texas Press Association.
Simpson has been married to Denise Simpson for 29 years and they have two daughters, Faith, 23, and Meredith, 20.
Simpson sees the 2018 News Industry Summit as an opportunity to re-energize SNPA members and build optimism about the future. He hopes that the vibrant and innovative "feel" of Nashville will inspire the people who attend.
"I would hope when we get together, that we leave Nashville more informed, more excited and more pumped about what we're doing," Simpson said.
Clearly Simpson has big goals for SNPA. Because he has worked with both smaller and larger newspapers, he understands their different needs. And he has had the benefit of working more than 30 years at a company that takes pride in being forward-thinking and always looking ahead to the future.
"If the leadership at a newspaper is not excited, energized and ready to go to battle, how do you expect the people working at the newspaper to do that?" he asked.
"SNPA has a tremendous history," Simpson said. "There have been a lot of great people in our industry who have served as president and I'm just really humbled and fortunate to have the opportunity. I hope I can do a few things that will leave the organization better."