H-P publisher, vice-president to retire after decades-long newspaper career

When William “Bill” Trimble leaves his post as publisher and vice-president of Lakeway Publishers of Virginia at the end of the month, he’ll be stepping away from nearly four decades in the industry.

Trimble announced his retirement in July. He will be succeeded as vice-president by Steve Weddle, current publisher of the Louisa County-based Central Virginian.

“Bill has been a tremendous asset to the company for the past six years and his strong leadership skills will be missed,” said R. Jack Fishman, president of Lakeway Publishers, Inc., in a July 2 memorandum to his Virginia staff.

In addition to his role as publisher of the Herald-Progress, Trimble headed four other weekly newspapers, the Caroline Progress, Westmoreland News, Northern Neck News and Northumberland Echo. Mosby “Chip” Wigginton, current associate publisher of the Herald-Progress and Caroline Progress, will take over as publisher of those newspapers Nov. 1, while Cathy Gerring has been named general manager of the Northern Neck-based publications.

The departure is bittersweet for Trimble, whose career has taken him up and down the East Coast and as far west as Texas, working for daily and weekly newspapers, as well as niche publications.

Trimble said he got into the journalism field “because he thought he could write.” After a stint in the United States Air Force, Trimble enrolled in the Mass Communications department at Virginia Commonwealth University where he majored in journalism.

“I went there to study to be a writer and ended up on the ‘dark side,’” Trimble jokes, referring to his eventual transition into the business and advertising side of news operations.

While studying journalism, Trimble interned with the Virginia Press Association and sold advertising for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He also worked in public relations for Phillip Morris.

But Trimble said he really got his start in the field at the Tazewell-based Clinch Valley News where he “did a little bit of everything,” working as a general manager, while also covering local government, crime and features for the weekly paper.

Exposure to all the sides of the business there helped prepare Trimble for a career leading publications in Indiana, West Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas, North Carolina and, finally, Virginia, where he was hired by the CV Corporation, first as a consultant and then fulltime.

Returning to the Commonwealth in 2005 brought the Farmville native back to his roots. He would spend the final years of a somewhat nomadic career working for the CV Corporation, which owned the Herald-Progress, Central Virginian and now-defunct Goochland Courier, before joining Lakeway Publishers, which had purchased the Northern Neck group of papers. In 2008, Lakeway purchased the three papers owned by the CV Corporation.

Over the years of constant relocation, Trimble also raised a family. He credits making that work to his wife, Elizabeth, whom he said helped turn every move into an adventure for his children.

“She made it very positive and was very understanding and supportive,” Trimble said.

While the constant relocation had its down side, Trimble said it built character in his children.

“There are pluses and minuses. For the most part, [my children] didn’t establish strong roots in a community because they didn’t spend their whole lives there, but they also got to learn to make new friends and get along, deal with new situations, and deal with people on a broader scale, so that’s the positive side,” Trimble said.

Trimble’s son Sean now lives in Tennessee while his daughter Ashley lives in Massachusetts. Spending more time with his children and grandchildren is a priority heading into retirement, as is “playing a little golf.” He also plans to donate some of his free time working with the Hanover County-based Habitat for Humanity.

It’s no secret that newspapers are in uncertain times, and Trimble leaves the industry in a time of flux, as more news organizations are investing in digital operations.

“That’s the million-dollar question right now: where are [newspapers] going and what’s going to happen to them?” Trimble said.

He believes community newspapers will continue to be strong for “some time,” but will have to adapt to a changing market while still serving as the go-to news source in an age of digital media.

“We have to remember, we’re not in the printing business, we’re in the news-gathering business. Stay with that, and we’ll do OK,” Trimble said.

He added this bit of advice for his successors: “It’s a great business to be in – it can be frustrating – but you need to keep your head about you and look ahead and embrace new technology…but don’t ever forget what our core business is.”

Posted on Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 11:15 am