By his own account, Lloyd Case knew just about nothing about the newspaper business when in 1982 he answered an ad in his local Fargo, North Dakota, paper, The Forum. He left his job as a finance guy with a plumbing supplies manufacturer to become controller of the newspaper’s parent, Forum Communications.
“It was totally new to me,” he said about the media business. “The great thing about Inland was that it was an education in itself.”
But Inland for Case was more than just the information, strategies and industry news he picked up at conferences — it was the welcoming feeling from his very Annual Meeting.
“The thing I liked about Inland — and everybody says this — was the closeness,” he said. “They accept you in and you become part of the family. Inland people seem to take care of each other. Someone is always willing to share information.”
Case threw himself into Inland, serving as a board member for both the association and the foundation, and serving as association president for the 2012-2013 term, followed by a one-year term as chairman.
Case’s impact on the Inland Press Association and the newspaper industry was recognized Monday, Oct. 7, at the inaugural meeting of America's Newspapers in Chicago with the Ralph D. Casey/Minnesota Award.
The annual award, presented by Inland Press Association and named in honor of the first director of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications, is intended to honor someone “who is an agenda-setter, bringing about change while exemplifying the finest in journalism and community service.”
At Forum Communications, the North Dakota native who took that controller job in 1982 was within 10 years named its vice president and CFO. Forum’s board of directors elected him president in 2006, and CEO in 2010.
By the time he retired as top executive at the end of 2013, Case oversaw nine dailies and more than 20 community newspapers — many of which were acquired on his watch. He was also responsible for radio and television stations in North Dakota and Minnesota as well as Forum’s Interactive Digital Media Division in Fargo.
He made a big impact on the leadership at Forum with“Forum Forward,” a program he created that cultivates next generations of leaders in the company through a combination of formal training, mentoring, and exposure to the wide range of Forum businesses.
Case remains a member of Forum’s board of directors and also sits on the board of Alerus Financial Corporation, a Grand Forks, North Dakota-headquartered diversified financial services company with full-service banking operations.
Has his perspective on the newspaper industry changed since he retired?
“I do come at it from a different perspective,” Case said. “When I joined industry, I was pretty critical of it at the time. Looking from outside in now — though obviously not from totally outside — you see so much change, and yet the question is, are we changing enough?”
Case is particularly concerned about the content mix in many newspapers. He wonders if newsrooms are taking enough time to think about what content the audience wants.
“In the past, our newsrooms thought they knew what the audience wanted,” he said. “Do they still? We need to get involved with the audience and (learn) what do they want.”
But there is one very positive development inside the industry, Case says — the merger of Inland and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association.
“I love it — I think it’s much overdue,” he said. “I really applaud individuals on both (associations) who accomplished this. We had a lot of discussions about this over the years. I don’t think there’s any questions it’s beneficial for both organizations.”
And of the Casey Award, Case said: It’s a cliché to say you’re humbled by it. But I’m anxious to get back to Inland and see a lot of familiar faces.”