Daily News, News Bulletin publisher steps down

Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 01:24 PM.

Northwest Florida Daily News Publisher Tom Conner, who began his career here more than 30 years ago as a reporter, is stepping down to pursue new opportunities, it was announced Thursday.

Roger Quinn, regional publisher of Halifax Media Group’s Central Region, said a nationwide search will begin to find the best person for the position. In the interim, Lee Knapp, Halifax Media Group operations director, will serve as interim publisher of the Fort Walton Beach paper.

“We appreciate everything that Tom has done for this newspaper, this community and this region over his many years here,” Quinn said. “He worked through challenging economic times and took on expanded responsibilities while helping shape both our news coverage and business operations in Fort Walton Beach and the weekly newspapers around it.

“We wish him well in his next endeavor.”

The Northwest Florida Daily News is one of two daily and eight weekly newspapers published by Halifax Media Group in Northwest Florida that make up the bulk of HMG’s Central Region. Conner’s responsibilities didn’t stop at the Daily News, as he also helped with weekly operations in Crestview, Destin, Walton County and Milton. Other papers in the region include The Panama City News Herald and weeklies in Chipley, Bonifay, Port St. Joe and Apalachicola.

Conner, who was active in various Fort Walton Beach civic organizations like the Rotary Club of Fort Walton Beach and business organizations like the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, began his career as a Daily News reporter and worked his way up through the newsroom to the position of editor in 1986.

He held that position until 2001 when he was named publisher of another Freedom Communications newspaper, The Porterville (Calif.) Recorder. In 2004 Conner, his wife, Tracy, and their children returned to Fort Walton Beach when Conner was named Daily News publisher in place of the retiring Marvin DeBolt.

In 2011, with the retirement of Freedom’s regional vice president in Florida, Conner took on additional responsibilities over the Crestview News Bulletin, the Destin Log, the Walton Sun and the Santa Rosa Press Gazette.

Last June Halifax Media Group completed its purchase of Freedom Communications’ Florida and North Carolina properties, bringing together a newspaper group that boasts a strong presence across the Southeast and includes newspapers in key Florida cities like Daytona Beach, Gainesville and Sarasota.

Halifax is headquartered in Daytona Beach, but Knapp is no stranger to Fort Walton Beach’s operations. He joined Halifax after serving as the vice president of operations for Freedom Communications for six years and is a graduate of Auburn University.

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