By Alexander Dworkowitz
Steve Blank, publisher of the TimesLedger Newspapers, was installed as president of the New York Press Association at the Association’s annual meeting in Vermont Saturday.
The NYPA, with a membership of about 350 paid weeklies throughout the state, underwent a landmark change the same day that Blank became president. After years of debate, the NYPA will now allow free weeklies to join its ranks for the first time since its founding in 1853. Many of the potential new member papers are ethnic newspapers.
“The New York Press Association can offer these ethnic newspapers the knowledge needed to run profitable businesses that provide their communities with quality community journalism,” Blank said in his first speech as president.
Blank succeeds James Bilinski of the Finger Lakes Community Newspapers as president.
Blank comes to the position after a lengthy career in journalism. After graduating from the Boston University School of Public Communications, Blank started out as a reporter in Massachusetts in 1974. After working as a reporter at the Post-Standard in Syracuse and the Kansas City Star, Blank left journalism to join his family’s electronics chain in 1986.
Missing newspapers, Blank bought the Bayside Times and Little Neck Ledger in 1989, forming the TimesLedger Newspapers. In his 12 years as publisher, the TimesLedger group has expanded from two to 13 weeklies.
“Steve has a really strong newspaper background,” said Michelle Ray, executive director of the NYPA. “He understands the mission and position of weekly newspapers.”
She added, “I think he’ll be a terrific president. He’s really smart.”
“I think it’s very exciting,” Blank said of his new role in the NYPA. “The weekly newspaper industry has been growing very quickly over the last couple of years.”
Blank praised the services that the NYPA offers to its members, including holding seminars for writers, editors and advertising staffers at its member newspapers. The association also provides a libel hotline and a business practices hotline for members. The NYPA acts as a lobbying organization, pushing mostly for First Amendment issues.
“The New York Press Association is one of the few press associations qualified to help the growth of weekly newspapers,” said Blank.
Blank hopes that by opening NYPA’s services to free ethnic weeklies, the NYPA can help place them on a stronger financial footing.
There are currently about 250 weeklies in the state that are not members of the NYPA. Ray said the NYPA wants to invite all of them to become members.
“Hopefully, we will continue to expand and come up with ways to assist weekly news in New York,” said Blank.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.