Patricia Richardson, Virginian-Pilot publisher, named to The Day's top post

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Patricia Richardson
Patricia Richardson

New London — Patricia Richardson, a native New Englander with decades of experience on the business side of newspapers, most recently as publisher of The Virginian-Pilot and president of Pilot Media in Norfolk, Va., has been named publisher of The Day.

Richardson, 54, will assume her new post May 7, Gary Farrugia, The Day’s outgoing publisher, told employees Friday.

“I’m thrilled,” Richardson, reached in Norfolk, said. “New London reminds me a lot of my time in Annapolis at the Capital Gazette and at the Carroll County Times (in Westminster, Md.). We’ve got the Naval Academy in Annapolis, you’ve got the Coast Guard Academy. We build submarines, too, and carriers in Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. And there’s the whole tourism-maritime aspect of the economy."

“They’re very similar,” she said. “That’s part of what makes (New London) so attractive to me.”

Born in Farmingdale, Maine, Richardson earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Maine and a master's of business administration from the University of Louisville. She joined The Virginian-Pilot, the flagship paper of Landmark Media Enterprise, as an advertising manager in 1989. From there, she ascended to corporate advertising positions with Landmark Community Newspapers in Shelbyville, Ky., and to publisher posts at the Carroll County Times and Capital Gazette Communications in Maryland.

She returned to The Virginian-Pilot as publisher in the fall of 2014 — just as the paper was about to cut nearly a quarter of its newsroom staff.

“When I came in, layoffs already were planned,” Richardson said.

Downsizing has left The Virginian-Pilot with about 100 newsroom employees, she said, which makes it “a challenge” to cover a circulation area that includes five distinct cities. Comparing that to The Day, she said she welcomes a return to a community paper that’s closely connected to the region it serves.

“Metropolitan papers tend to lose that,” she said.

The Virginian-Pilot is Virginia's largest newspaper, with 130,000 paid print and digital subscribers — about six times as many as The Day. PilotOnline, the paper's website, attracts 2 million unique monthly visitors. Richardson also oversees a collection of targeted niche websites, magazines and a commercial printing operation. 

The Virginian-Pilot outsources the design of its pages — except the front page — to a service provided by a division of the Canadian Press. The paper continues to be printed in Norfolk.

As publisher, Richardson said she’s been devoted to the business side — she serves on nine boards — and leading The Virginian-Pilot’s “digital transformation.”

“I don’t get in the weeds (on stories). That’s what editors are for,” she said.

Colleagues and former colleagues describe her as “collaborative” and “easygoing,” a problem-solver who has thrived during a difficult time for the newspaper business.

Farrugia said Richardson emerged as the leading candidate for publisher from among a field of “dozens” that was narrowed to six and then to four finalists, two of whom were from inside The Day.

The Day’s board of directors, of which Farrugia is a member, interviewed the six finalists. He said they were graded on six criteria, including journalistic values, demonstrated success in identifying new revenue opportunities, leadership abilities and how well their personality meshed with The Day’s “culture.”

She aced all the criteria, Farrugia said.

He cited her involvement in the Poynter Institute’s efforts to map out the future of newspapers, including their ongoing digital transformation.

Richardson, in fact, said she was impressed with The Day’s legacy for innovation and “moving fast,” factors that piqued her interest in the publisher’s job.

“From where I sit, you are doing really well,” she said. “You’re growing print circulation. I can’t tell you of another daily mid-market (newspaper) that’s doing that. It’s really a tribute to the journalism.”

The challenge ahead, she said, is to figure out ways to keep serving an audience increasingly turning to digital platforms.

“How do you make money from digital subscriptions?” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

David Nolf of Mystic, a member of The Day’s board, said Richardson has the kind of background he was looking for in a publisher — someone with experience at papers bigger than The Day but not too big.

“Being at a larger company sometimes allows people to have opportunities they wouldn’t have had at a smaller one,” he said. “The Virginian-Pilot’s significantly larger than The Day. At a bigger paper, you also may have access to experts you might not at a paper The Day's size.

“If you come from too big a paper or a large chain, you may have been in a situation where someone else was involved in all the innovation," Nolf said. "As papers continue to transition to digital, that’s important. In Pat’s case, she came from a larger paper, but still a community paper. She’s had to do things herself, without a corporate office to rely on. She’s had hands-on experience doing things The Day wants her to do as it moves to digital.”

Another board member, Lynda Smith of New London, said she was most impressed with Richardson’s understanding of the connection between the media and the community.

“She’s always been very involved in the community and has always been a strong advocate for communities,” Smith said. “She’ll also be the first female publisher at The Day. I’m sure she’s going to show a lot of professionalism, dignity and sensitivity. That stood out about her. It was clear she has a strong passion for newspapers.”

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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