Start Of A Dream

By Michael P. Connelly, Publisher

Atlantic News, Thursday, April 8, 2004

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
Michael & Michelle Connelly, new owners of the Atlantic News.

HAMPTON — It's the end of an era, and the beginning of a dream


Today, for the first time in its 32-year history, the Atlantic News, the locally owned independent voice of the Seacoast, bears the name of a different publisher and a different owner.

Let me introduce myself: My proper name is Michael P. Connelly; call me Mike. I'm 44 years old. I've been married for 22 years to my wife, Michelle, who works at Bank of New Hampshire in Portsmouth. We have an historic house on Dover Point, and a puppy named Paddington who peers at squirrels all day, perched atop one of our several couches.

I've been chasing headlines and deadlines in one publication or another since 1982, and if Betty Ford had a newspaper clinic, I'd be enrolled.

I'm addicted to newspapers, for better or for worse, and will never break that habit.

I've been in a wicked newspaper war in Denver, where my employer, the underdog Denver Post, prevailed against a cash-rich foe, The Rocky Mountain News, returning from the brink of death to win the market on the simple principles of product, service and price.

I've worked outside the business in a global marketing position in a delightful setting, helping reshape a languishing eyewear brand, Bolle, against fierce competition.

And I've worked for other newspapers who have dominated their market yet have lost their way with their readership and their vital customers, focused more on profits than the people that they serve from the position of the Fourth Estate.

As a family, we are entering our fourth year on the Seacoast, and it is home.

We couldn't be more honored, humbled, proud or privileged to own this newspaper and this company, and will endeavor to be the locally-owned, "Independent Voice of the Seacoast."

And as that baton is passed, it spotlights the end of an illustrious, entrepreneurial career and spirit of a newspaperman's man, Howie McGee — a man I am proud to call a friend, and someone I would trust through thick and thin.

At 62, he and wife, Ginny, will retire and seek life in a warmer climate at a slower speed in Florida. It is really difficult to imagine Howie dialing it down out of sheer desire. He owns a signature pace that is hectic, kinetic, of which legends are born.

And after thirty-something years on the Seacoast, he leaves behind a legacy chock full of success, well beyond the Atlantic News.

To wit, he developed and launched the Beach News some 33 years ago. And 10 years ago he decided to publish the Auto Guide across three states. And he's the author of other successful niche-publication launches, too, including next month's christening of Welcome to the Seacoast, a direct-mailed glossy high-end magazine sent every month to new home, condo and business buyers in Rockingham County.

And behind every great man, there is usually a better leading lady. Such is the case with Ginny McGee.

Ginny is a fantastic person. She's charming, graceful, and witty. And she truly embraces the next chapter in life with zest.

Ginny, co-publisher of Atlantic Publications, has an interesting way of qualifying or downplaying their glorious publishing past.

With great ease she brushes off well-deserved accolades for which she was a critical part of as she helped sustain a small, remarkable company through many rough chapters including recent volatile economic threats. Never did she accept being forgettable for the sake of being profitable, which seems to be the mantra of many of today's newspaper leaders.

Over the past winter I've come to learn and love Ginny. And I've gained a deep, unbending appreciation and respect for Howie.

Properly addressed he's Howard McGee, publisher and founder of the Atlantic News, but to anybody who knows him or deals with him or has spent time with him, he's a one-man brand.

He's Howie.

And Howie is the Atlantic News.

His laugh, his frankness, his caring and his drive is what has kept this paper, its sibling publications and, for that matter, the company titled the Atlantic News Sunday Advertiser, Inc., alive and prosperous for more than 30 years, despite in-market pressures by many who were much more mighty.

No, he's no Teddy Bear.

Howie's tough, stubborn, hungry, and sometimes ornery.

But at the end of the day, most know he gave to his community when he could and he rarely settled when it was an opportunity to take the path of least resistance.

Instead, he would normally step it up, fight back, move forward, and win.

Sometimes that didn't sit well with other. Howie didn't lose sleep over it.

He's Howie.

He dominates in his market, and nobody owns him, accept Ginny.

The citizens and business leaders in Hampton know this to be true.

Howie literally invented this company and its many successful papers.

And today he passes that torch to me.

And with it comes high expectations.

As a journalist who has been many things at many levels of the business, this is a day I have prepared for throughout my career. And it's a day I'll never forget.

I want to thank Howie and Ginny for the opportunity to take the company into the next generation. And I want to honor them for their great work.

Further, I'd like to tip my hat to the team I'm about to lead. To each I promise unconditional trust. To Betty McClean, John Hirtle, Liz Premo, Robert Durant, Jen Morton, Ann Hogan and Sue Daly, I will endeavor to live up to your expectations.

I want to praise my mother, Mary Grace Connelly, for showing me the true qualities of courage, toughness and perseverance.

And I have a friend in this business venture who is part brother, part partner, and he's an extraordinary businessman who is as intuitive, inventive and caring as anybody I've ever met. I'm lucky to call Fritz Anderson a friend, and partner.

And it circles back to dreaming, and not settling.

When you were young did you dream of being an athlete, a fireman, a nurse or some hero of sorts?

Yesterday did you sit at work every day and mutter, swearing in a faint tone that you'd do it different, if only you had the chance?

As a kid I dreamed of working at a newspaper.

Today I own one.

Dreams are goals unrealized.

Today, we honor the McGees for all that they've contributed. It's the end of an era unmatched, and it is the beginning of a dream uncharted.

Good luck Howie and Ginny!

[See the related article "End Of An Era".]