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Williams named president of National Newspaper Association

POSTED: September 19, 2013 7:35 p.m.
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Robert Williams Jr.

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Robert M. Williams Jr., publisher of theSouthFire Newspaper Group in Blackshear, was elected as president of the National Newspaper Association during the association’s 127th annual convention and trade show held last week in Phoenix.

NNA is the nation’s largest newspaper organization, representing nearly 2,300 community daily and weekly newspapers across America.

Williams is a Springfield native and started his career at the Effingham Herald, then the Springfield Herald, under the tutelage of then-owners, Bill and Ruth Lee. His personal column appears occasionally in the Herald. Williams is the son of the late Mack and Belle Williams.

Williams succeeds Merle Baranczyk, publisher of the Salida (Colo.) Mountain Mail. Elected vice president was John Edgecombe Jr., publisher of the Nebraska Signal in Geneva, Neb. He had been treasurer. Elected treasurer was Chip Hutcheson, publisher of the Princeton (Ky.) Times Leader. He had been Region 3 director (Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia).

During his acceptance speech, Williams thanked not only those in attendance for being community newspaper publishers, but all those who own and work at community papers.

From an extensive list of reasons on why community newspapers and those who work at them are important, he said, "Thank you for being the greatest link — and the strongest protection — between your readers and those with the power to tax and regulate and govern — and the few who choose to abuse that power. Thank you for speaking truth to power without fear or favor. Newspapers are often the only ones in a community willing to do that.

"Thank you for being the first transcribers of the only history your communities will likely ever record. The words and photos we preserve today are the priceless artifacts of lives treasured for generations to come.

"Thank you for providing a low-cost, effective and reliable connection between hundreds of sometimes struggling small town businesses and the buying public. You are a vital link between buyer and seller and, most important, you are an invested partner in the success of your friends and neighbors. Thank you for working hard to help them succeed.

"You do it week after week with sensitivity and caring and fairness and accuracy. Thank you for that."

Williams challenged many in the electronic media who ridicule newspapers as being on their deathbed. Far from it, he says.

"Community newspapers are a direct reflection of the economy of their communities," said Williams. "As America’s businesses rebound with renewed growth, newspapers will reflect that growth."

Williams and his wife, Cheryl, own part or all of five newspapers, including The Blackshear Times, the Charlton County Herald in Folkston, The Alma Times, The Telfair Enterprise in McRae and the Monroe County Reporter in Forsyth. Williams has been publisher in Blackshear for 42 years.

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