Mike Connelly will be the next editor of The Buffalo News.
News Publisher Stanford Lipsey announced Tuesday that Connelly, who is now executive editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, has been named editor and vice president after a nationwide search for a successor to former Editor Margaret M. Sullivan.
Connelly, 55, has a 31-year career in the news industry at publications that include Congressional Quarterly and the Wall Street Journal. He led the Herald-Tribune to win its first Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for its investigative reporting on Florida's property insurance industry.
"I'm excited about coming to Buffalo," Connelly said in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.
"It's a great paper with really loyal readers, and I think the challenge for every newspaper in the future is to keep reporting stories that engage readers, to tell them important things they don't know and to amaze them."
Sullivan left last month after a 32-year career at The News to become public editor of the New York Times.
"We've done an exhaustive national search to find someone of high caliber to follow Margaret Sullivan," said Warren T. Colville, president of The News. "Certainly, she's left a legacy here, and we've brought somebody in who can continue on and bring in a vision from other markets."
As the Herald-Tribune's executive editor, Connelly has overseen coverage in the newspaper, online and mobile editions and in the company's magazines since 2004. He is expected to start at The News in late October.
"Our first job is to continue covering the Buffalo region with the same vigor you guys have long done," Connelly said.
"I have a real commitment to local news coverage, a real commitment to going beyond the stories that happened yesterday."
Connelly will lead the newsroom following a shift in The News' online business model to require a subscription for full access to BuffaloNews.com and mobile applications, starting Oct. 1.
"The printed newspaper will continue to be very important for a long time," Connelly said. "A large number of people still prefer to get their news that way, and we are determined to make that an even better experience for readers.
"But at the same time, there are a lot of people who like to get their news and information through digital products, and we will build the best digital products and the best digital experience for them as we can."
Connelly started his career as a copy editor for the national news desk of the Wall Street Journal. He served as a vice president of Congressional Quarterly Inc., overseeing operations from 1997 to 2001 and product development from 2001 to 2003.
A native of Iowa, Connelly earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science at the University of Iowa. He also has worked at the Baltimore Sun and the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota.
"He is a people person, and he is a solid news executive," Lipsey told newsroom staff Tuesday afternoon as he announced Connelly's appointment as editor.
The News interviewed more than 20 candidates from all over the country during a two-month search to fill the top job in the newsroom.
Connelly will be seventh editor in The News' 132-year history.
During his eight years at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the newspaper has won a Pulitzer Prize and has been a finalist two other times. In addition to those honors, Connelly said, he was proud of the "aggressive" efforts the Herald-Tribune has made in recent years to figure out what works for news readers in a digital world.
He also said he was proud that the paper was able to weather the recession and difficult times that newspapers have faced in the last five years "with our ambition and our sense of purpose intact."
"I think that was enormously important," Connelly said.
Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association, said Connelly has been able to balance the business needs of a changing industry with the desire to create high-quality journalism during his time in Sarasota.
"I think that he has done everything within his power to retain as many great journalists as possible at the Herald-Tribune," said Ridings, who has served on the board of trustees of the Florida First Amendment Foundation along with Connelly.
"Obviously, he's had constraints like everyone has, but I think, from my perspective, he's taken the high road and done as much as he could to make sure that he did not sacrifice that quality."
Ridings said Connelly has a "real passion for great journalism" and called his career move "a loss to Florida."
Connelly said he remains "very bullish on the future of news" as the industry evolves.
"News and information has never been more valuable; that is what we do," Connelly said.
"What shape that takes over the next decade, who knows? Technology is changing so fast, but the value of helping people make sense of this ocean of news and information surrounding them, the importance of that, will only grow over time."