A veteran newspaper executive from Massachusetts and an editor from Colorado, who worked to expand access to public records in that state, have been hired for top jobs at the Star-Telegram.
Sean Burke, most recently president and group publisher with Gatehouse Media New England in Boston, will join the Star-Telegram as president and publisher Monday. He replaces Gary Wortel, who was promoted in March to become president and publisher of the Sacramento Bee and a regional publisher for McClatchy Co., the parent of both papers.
Lauren Gustus, executive editor at the Fort Collins Coloradoan, will become the Star-Telegram’s new vice president and executive editor, replacing Jim Witt, who retired last fall. Gustus will start June 19.
“The Star-Telegram has an incredibly solid foundation and commitment to the community,” said Burke. “We remain steadfastly dedicated to high-quality journalism and delivering products and services to our advertisers that meet their needs. As a company, we need to translate those values into the new media marketplace.”
Burke and Gustus arrive as the Star-Telegram and other newspapers continue to adapt to the shift of readers and advertisers from printed to online products, including new apps, videos and podcasts.
The goal is to deepen engagement with those who read us and to grow new audience by offering relevant content that’s tailored to the platform that people are using.
Lauren Gustus, new Star-Telegram editor
To succeed in the digital era, Gustus said newspapers must be relevant community partners and produce authoritative journalism that brings people together to improve the lives of local residents.
“It’s about being relational,” she said. “The goal is to deepen engagement with those who read us and to grow new audience by offering relevant content that’s tailored to the platform that people are using.”
Burke, 54, spent 30 years in various roles with Gatehouse and its predecessor companies, which has grown into one of the nation’s biggest newspaper operators. A graduate of Boston University, where he played football, he has spent his entire career in the Northeast. He and his wife, Kristen, have three daughters and one granddaughter.
As newspapers adjust to an evolving marketplace, Burke said they must deliver products and services to advertisers that help them reach customers who are shopping in different ways. That includes both print and online advertising, as well as digital marketing services that encompass search and social media and are provided to local businesses in an integrated way.
“We’re in the midst of this transition. We’ve had to adapt our business model such that we are focusing more of our resources toward digital,” he said. “It’s really an exciting and invigorating time in our industry. We’re changing the way we do business.”
Gustus, 36, became the top editor in Fort Collins in 2014 after spending nearly seven years as an editor for the Reno Gazette-Journal in Nevada. Both of those news organizations are owned by Gannett Co. She earlier worked for newspapers in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. She and her husband, Zach, have two sons.
The Star-Telegram will make it through this transition. We will evolve in how we deliver our products and services and how we deliver our journalism.
Sean Burke, new Star-Telegram publisher
During her time in Fort Collins, the Coloradoan has grown digital subscribers by providing in-depth coverage of critical issues including mental health and affordable housing and hosting community forums and other events. To better communicate with online readers, Gustus created a 10-person engagement team in the newsroom.
Gustus also led a push to expand the state’s open records law after a Coloradoan reporter was denied access to a digital database of employee salaries at a state university and provided paper records instead. She served on a 16-member committee that developed language for a new bill, approved by state lawmakers last month, that requires digitized copies of public records be provided if they are maintained in a digital format.
Both Burke and Gustus said they are looking forward to setting down roots in Fort Worth, which Burke said he has found to be friendly and welcoming.
“The Star-Telegram will make it through this transition,” Burke said. “We will evolve in how we deliver our products and services and how we deliver our journalism. We are a company that is driven to endure in this new media marketplace.”