Jim Prince addressing the MPA Saturday.
Jim Prince addressing the MPA Saturday.
BILOXI - Neshoba Democrat Editor and Publisher Jim Prince, president of Prince Newspaper Holdings, Inc., became Immediate Past President of the Mississippi Press Association and Chairman of its Education Foundation during the trade group's 148th annual meeting on the Gulf Coast last week.

Prince, who served as MPA's 141st president for the past two years, told Mississippi newspaper publishers and editors Saturday in a farewell address that newspapers were not only surviving in Mississippi, but they're thriving, with some reporting record growth.

"More than 1.5 million Mississippians read their local newspaper regularly," Prince said. "But, you've heard the news. Nobody reads papers anymore. It's a digital world. Now your Board of Directors has some news, the truth about newspapers. Mississippi's newspapers aren't just surviving, they're thriving, with some reporting record growth.

"More than seven of 10 adults, 1.5 million Mississippians, are active newspaper readers, Prince said.

"And it's not just the older audience you might expect. Our readership is much stronger among younger adults than in most states. Seventy percent of young adults access a printed or online newspaper every week. So not only do newspapers give you a large audience, it's an informed and engaged audience." (See text of speech on page 6A)

He noted that the key to newspapers continued survival is change.

"We must start marketing our newspapers like Coca-Cola markets Coke or Budweiser beer. Already, the Board has taken some initial, aggressive steps with the new animation produced by the GodwinGroup that brings our readership survey to life. Download the video at powerinprint.ms and sharing it with your customers."

Robin Weaver in 1934 is the only other Neshoba Democrat editor to be elected president of the organization that represents the state's 120 daily and weekly newspapers.

The Democrat captured three first place awards, two second place and four third place awards in the 2013 Better Newspaper Contest. (See story page 6A)

The publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce was elected the 142nd president of the Mississippi Press Association, succeeding Prince.

Joel McNeece, 44, will serve as president of MPA and Mississippi Press Services, Inc., an affiliated advertising and marketing service. McNeece was unable to be present Saturday because of a death.

McNeece and his wife, Lisa, and sister-in-law, Celia Hillhouse, own and operate the 5,000-circulation weekly newspaper. Lisa McNeece is a former president of MPA and her father, the late S. Gale Denley, is a past president and member of the MPA Hall of Fame. 

McNeece has worked in the newspaper industry for more than 20 years during which time he has won numerous awards for writing in news, sports and his weekly column.

In 2009, McNeece was honored with the Dan Phillips Leadership Award from the National Newspaper Association. He currently serves as Mississippi state chairman for NNA.

McNeece has served multiple times as president of the Bruce Chamber of Commerce, three times been named Chamber Member of the Year and served 13 years on the organization's board of directors. 

He is also a Paul Harris Fellow and past president of the Bruce Rotary Club. He has served as the chairman of the Bruce Museum Board of Directors since 2006 and twice been named Bruce Citizen of the Year.

McNeece and others were installed during ceremonies at a joint convention with the Louisiana Press Association. 

Also elected to leadership positions were First Vice President Don Norman, publisher of the Starkville Daily News; Second Vice President Paul Keane, publisher of The Wayne County News in Waynesboro; and Treasurer Tracie Fowler, general manager of the Hattiesburg American. 

Elected to three-year terms as Directors were Stephanie Patton, editor and publisher of The Leland Progress, and Clay Foster, publisher and CEO of Journal, Inc., the parent company of the Daily Journal in Tupelo. 

Tim Kalich, publisher and editor of The Greenwood Commonwealth, was awarded the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence for a commentary piece written about Gov. Phil Bryant and the debate over Medicaid expansion in Mississippi. It was the third year in a row and fourth time overall Kalich took the honor, setting a record in the category. 

The Emmerich Award, the highest honor presented annually by MPA, is named for the late publisher of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb. Kalich was originally hired in Greenville by the late John Emmerich, son of J. Oliver Emmerich. 

Also singled out for distinction:

• Charlie Smith, publisher of the Enterprise-Tocsin in Indianola, won the Bill Minor Prize for General News Reporting;

• Jerry Mitchell, a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger, won the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism for Daily Newspapers;

• Wyatt Emmerich, publisher of The Northside Sun, won the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Reporting for Non-Daily Newspapers.

• Colin Krieger, publisher and editor of The Columbus Packet, was awarded Photo of the Year.

Established in 1866, MPA is the trade association for 120 member publications. Mississippi Press Services, founded in 1978, is a business subsidiary to MPA that provides advertising representation for member papers.