In the nearly 12 years that Warren T. Colville has been president of The Buffalo News, the company has extended its digital reach, added more commercial printing presses and expanded delivery capabilities.
Colville, who will become publisher Jan. 1, sees that growth as the way to support the company’s core mission as a source of information for Western New York.
“One of the most significant things is to maintain our position as the market leader and being a source of information and of news,” Colville said. “A lot of papers have lost their franchise. Our Sunday product is really second-to-none. We have an incredible package of value for people.”
Colville, 68, has overseen the day-to-day operations of The News as the company’s president since February 2001. He expects that role to continue as he succeeds Publisher Stanford Lipsey when Lipsey becomes publisher emeritus in January.
Colville sees new revenue-generating opportunities as key to meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing newspaper industry.
“The core of our business is still 130 people that we have on the third floor,” Colville said of the newspaper’s third-floor newsroom. “That doesn’t change. That’s the foundation. That’s bedrock, and that’s what makes us who we are, but every paper is facing challenges today of how to stay viable, profitable and build a sustainable model for the future.”
Today, the company not only produces The Buffalo News and its online editions, but also operates a digital division, and prints and distributes everything from postcards and brochures to regional copies of the New York Times. Colville said he and Editor Mike Connelly are exploring the possibility of adding new content next year.
It’s a long way from the start of Colville’s newspaper career at the Daily Register in Shrewsbury, N.J., where he started as a classified salesman and worked his way up to advertising director.
A native of Mount Kisco and a graduate of Westchester College, Colville said that first job gave him hands-on experience in everything from selling advertisements to laying out parts of the paper. “When you work at a small paper, you absolutely do everything,” he said. “I think that’s a wonderful basis to grow into a larger paper because you’ve got exposure to many different departments that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.”
He was later recruited to the much larger Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., and then to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla., before moving to Buffalo in December 1987 as vice president and director of advertising for The Buffalo News.
Colville has overseen daily operations at The News at a time when the staff has shrunk through buyouts and the company has shifted to a subscription model for online news content.
Peter F. Hunt, chairman and CEO for Hunt Real Estate, said Colville has extended his leadership beyond his executive office into the community.
“Someone in that position could easily hide behind the job, in my opinion, because there’s a lot to do,” Hunt said. “To keep an organization like that, which is built on print, viable in and of itself is a monumental task when the world has declared many newspapers dead. He’s managed to stay deeply involved in our community and also raise a family along the way.”
Colville serves on the board of directors of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and has previously served on other community boards, including Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Hilbert College.
That work has often been behind-the-scenes.
“He’s always been at the table, always very willing to respond to requests for insight and, in some cases, direct support,” said Andrew Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “And he does so in a very low-key fashion. That’s a precious asset in this community.”
The father of seven children, Colville lives in Orchard Park with his wife, Karen, and two teenage daughters, Waverly and Porscha.
“Warren is sort of the perfect person for right now for The News, because you’ve got someone who has the benefit of having decades of experience and really good relationships and the ability to figure out the next step,” said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, who worked with him before becoming president and CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara. “So I feel really confident about The News’ future knowing Warren is taking on the job.”