POLITICS

Former Postmedia exec Malcolm Kirk named new president of The Canadian Press

06/19/2012 08:23 EDT | Updated 08/19/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - A former executive at Canada's largest newspaper publisher has been named president of The Canadian Press, capping more than a year of restructuring and recovery at the national news agency.

Malcolm Kirk, formerly executive vice-president of digital media with Postmedia Network Inc., was introduced Tuesday to staff members in Toronto and across the country during a video conference call.

"I'm absolutely excited and optimistic about the future for The Canadian Press," Kirk said during the meeting.

"I truly believe that this organization — one that is built on quality content, speed, accuracy, integrity, fantastic journalism — is in a very, very unique position to be a partner in the transformation of media that's taking place in this country, and beyond."

Kirk — a veteran of newspaper front offices in Vancouver, Calgary and San Francisco — replaces Jim Jennings and Neil Campbell, the co-architects of a strategic review last year that culminated in their being named co-presidents last September.

In an interview, Kirk said his first priority will be to ensure the content and services provided by The Canadian Press are meeting the needs of its customer base.

"What's fundamental for any business that serves its customers is to understand their objectives very clearly, and that allows us as an organization to set our goals and strategies so they are in line with what our customers are looking for," Kirk said.

"We will be very proactive with our customers in understanding their goals, and then driving our business strategies to suit those of our customers."

Jennings and Campbell joined the news agency as emissaries of a new ownership group that includes the parent companies of the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and Montreal's La Presse newspapers.

The pair presided over a broad restructuring that brought with it staff reductions and a thorough search for new sources of revenue — as well as the return in May of Postmedia's stable of newspapers after a five-year absence.

Both Jennings and Campbell are resuming their careers at the Globe, the statement said.

Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank, the co-chairman of the board of directors of Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., described Kirk as an excellent choice to lead the news agency into the future.

"He is a proven leader with a passion for news and a distinguished record as a journalist and as a media executive who understands the needs and fast-changing environment for all forms of media outlets, including newspapers, television, radio and digital," Cruickshank said.

Fellow co-chairman Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of the Globe and Mail, praised Jennings and Campbell and the company's management team for the "remarkable turnaround in CPE's fortunes in the last 12 months."

"The board thanks them for creating such a firm foundation for future growth," Crawley said. "Malcolm Kirk is very well qualified to lead The Canadian Press through the next stage of its evolution into a content creation company for the digital age."

The work Jennings and Campbell did in helping to put the company on a more secure financial footing allows the agency to focus more directly on generating new revenue opportunities, said Kirk.

"With a lot of the work that's been done over the last year in particular, Canadian Press is in a much stronger position," he said.

"I'm very optimistic about our fortunes ... if we drive the right strategy to increase the range of products and services that can be provided."

Guy Crevier, president and publisher of La Presse, called the appointment "excellent news" for the company.

"He has an impressive and diversified background in the Canadian and U.S. print journalism industry," Crevier said.

"His achievements in both the digital and traditional media, his extensive know-how and his knowledge of Canada's media environment are definite assets that will enable The Canadian Press to strengthen its position as the country's leading news agency."

Kirk, 44, joined Postmedia's management team following that company's own restructuring in July 2010, and was tapped with managing an impressive stable of digital newspaper websites, mobile and tablet applications.

Prior to his digital media job, Kirk spent several years as a senior vice-president with Postmedia predecessor Canwest Publishing Inc.

He has also served as both publisher and editor-in-chief of the Calgary Herald, executive editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and as managing editor of the Vancouver Province.

The Canadian Press, which until 2010 operated as a non-profit co-operative that was owned by dozens of daily newspapers across Canada, has faced financial struggles in recent years — including the loss of some major media clients, Postmedia in 2007 for example, and problems with funding its pension plan.

Long a fixture in Canadian newsrooms, where it is known simply as "CP,'' The Canadian Press was created almost a century ago to provide the country's newspapers with a wide selection of news reports from across the country and around the world.

Over the years, the news agency expanded to include a broadcast and photo service and most recently, adopted a renewed focus aimed at online news and video.

In 2010, CP became a privately owned for-profit company called Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., owned by the Globe, Toronto Star parent Torstar Corp. and Square Victoria Communications Group, the parent of La Presse publisher Gesca Ltee.

Asked about dangers on the road ahead, Kirk pointed out that The Canadian Press has long depended on large clients who are themselves facing challenges as a result of the ever-changing media landscape.

"We are all invested in each other's success," he said.

"A large part of our business is brought to us by major newspaper, radio and television partners, and I think we need to be very conscious of the challenges they are facing in their businesses, and be ready — and proactive — in helping them to be successful.

"That means, on our part, being much more proactive with them, and we will set our business strategies against what the needs of those customers are. I don't think as a company that we should set our strategies in isolation; it's important for us to really understand what those customers are looking for and build our plans around it."