Osceola Under New Leadership

Tom Kirk takes the helm as publisher & GM

- Fallan Patterson, Osceola News-Gazette Staff Writer

With shoes to fill, but not high heels, Tom Kirk took over last month as publisher and general manager of the Osceola News-Gazette, replacing long-time publisher Paula Stark.

Kirk built his career managing advertising sales teams for both small and large publications in Massachusetts and Florida, most recently for the Naples Daily News from 2003 to 2007 and at Media News Group from 2010 to 2011.

Kirk also owned an advertising consulting business for two years focused on revenue optimization, selling practices and sales training.

"We're pleased to announce Tom Kirk as publisher of the News-Gazette. His years of experience with daily and weekly newspapers along with his involvement in community service will be an asset to the community and the News-Gazette," Dennis Wilkinson, vice president of the newspaper's parent company, Sun Publications of Florida, said.

Kirk said he is excited to capitalize on what he sees as a "perfect set-up" in the News-Gazette, adding the county paper, with its free subscription base, doesn't have the problems of some of its competitors in trying to raise revenue through subscriptions.

"This place can grow. Very few media companies have the ability to grow," Kirk said, adding he doesn't plan to shy away from the work. "This is a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves position. The days of a publisher sitting in his office and not being a part of every aspect of the business are long gone."

Kirk spends much of the day working one-on-one with the sales staff and visiting the various departments of the newspaper to get an overall feel for where changes need to be made. He expects to double the sales staff in the next year.

"My philosophy has always been that if you develop, motivate and support every employee in the company, the sky's the limit," Kirk said. "I wouldn't be here if there wasn't that optimism. We will invest in our people and our product."

As a boy growing up just outside of Boston, Kirk watched his father, Tom Sr., begin working at a small newspaper company in 1953, where is dad still works today at age 72.

"I grew up in the business. I cleaned under the linotype (typesetting machine)," he said. "Having (worked) in this industry for three decades - it's in my blood."

Kirk also instituted an open-door policy to both employees and the community for questions, comments, concerns and suggestions and hopes to get involved with local organizations to get acclimated to Osceola County.

"I want to be extremely involved wherever necessary," he said, adding while he and his wife, Albena, currently live in Orlando, they are looking to move into Osceola County soon.

Kirk said he hopes that small changes to the marketing, advertising and content of the newspaper make a positive impact on the community where he has already heard great things about the News-Gazette.

"Our readers enjoy our product and I want to better leverage our community relationships to benefit the entire market," Kirk said. "We need to be fluid in our business; we need to change quickly to our market."

An active Rotary International member, Kirk previously sat on boards for the United Way, Fitchburg State University and the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. He holds a business administration and marketing degree from Westfield State University.

The father of three daughters - Ashley, 22, and 20-year-old twins Lindsey and Kelsey - all of whom attend the University of Central Florida, Kirk enjoys supporting his children's school.

An avid New England Patriots fan, Kirk is looking past the team's Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants and forward to the newly re-named Miami Marlins baseball season.

He and Albena are college sweethearts going on 22 years of marriage and enjoying their empty nester years boating, fishing and taking care of their three Labrador retrievers and four cats.

Reprinted by permission.


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