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John Johnson Jr. stepping down as Times editor

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John B. Johnson Jr., CEO of Johnson Newspapers and the editor and co-publisher of the Watertown Daily Times, announced Friday that he will step down from daily oversight of the companies.

In making the announcement to department heads and newsroom staff, Mr. Johnson said he will continue as chairman of the board of directors of the corporation. “I will also start a new chapter by writing editorials for the Times and will continue my community work,” he wrote in an email to the entire staff.

“My brother Harold B. Johnson will become vice chairman. He will continue as president of the company and co-publisher of The Times. His career experience will be crucial as the leadership team adapts to the changing media marketplace and positions the company for sustainable growth.”

“My son John will assume the role of Chief Executive Officer and the Co-Publisher of the Times. The leaders of the newspapers in Malone, Hudson and Batavia will report to him as will department heads in the North Country.”

“We are pleased to announce Harold’s son Alec has been elected a director of the company. Alec is an award-winning reporter for the Waterbury Republican American with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His experience positions us well for growth and for the change in the rapidly changing media marketplace. We look forward to his guidance as a director of the company.”

“The north country has provided an exciting place for me to practice my love of journalism,” Mr. Johnson wrote in his email. “I am very, very proud of what we have accomplished, the stories we have told, the lives we have helped improve through our reporting and the reputation we have all earned.”

As the new CEO, the younger John B. Johnson will continue the trend of developing new products for the company. He is responsible for having created the successful magazines NNY Business and NNY Living, and he has pushed for improvements on the company’s websites.

“I am honored to continue in the tradition of journalism and service to the community that was started by my great-grandfather,” John Johnson said. “My father has done a remarkable job leading a very talented group of journalists and businesspeople. He believes fervently in the goodness and strength of the north country and campaigns tirelessly for our communities at the local, state and national levels. I am excited to continue to grow the business that he stewarded and led for his career. We have a wonderful team of people who all believe in the north country, our readers and our clients. I look forward to working with them to expand our business and make our communities better places.”

“On a very personal note, I have developed a relationship with my father that not many children have the opportunity to develop. Not only is he my father, but he is a colleague, a business mentor, a confidant and a friend. That relationship has changed my life for the better and I am grateful for it.”

Mr. Johnson’s role in the community and on the state level is being noted today by several leaders. In a joint email statement from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, Alfonso L. Carney Jr., board chairman, and Paul T. Williams Jr., president and chief executive officer, wrote: “We would like to congratulate John B. Johnson Jr. on his retirement from the day-to-day operations at the Watertown Daily Times. John was first appointed to DASNY’s board in 2001, and since 2003 has served as the board’s Vice-Chairman. He replaced his father, John B. Johnson, who served on DASNY’s board from 1956 through 2000. We are delighted, and frankly relieved, that John will continue his work with DASNY. His years of experience and wisdom are invaluable to our mission.”

He also was praised by James W. Wright, executive director of the Development Authority of the North County, of which Mr. Johnson is also a board member.

“John Johnson Jr. has always maintained the highest professional standards, which is recognized not only regionally but also in the state’s and nation’s capitols,” Mr. Wright said. “The Watertown Daily Times has always been recognized as an exceptional daily newspaper. I know the new leadership will continue the family’s commitment to excellence.”

“John has also placed the interests of the north country first,” Mr. Wright said. “I look forward to continuing to work with him in the community and as a member of the Development Authority’s board.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called Mr. Johnson a great publisher, community leader and fishing buddy, and said he could not think of anyone who had done more for the region.

“He’s just a caring, decent, thoughtful human being. He’s the best,” Sen. Schumer said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I wish the world had more John Johnsons.”

Sen. Schumer said he would often receive calls from Mr. Johnson asking for help supporting local businesses, nonprofits and hospitals.

“None of it was for his own benefit,” he said. “All of it was because he cared about the north country and its people.”

“John B. Johnson Jr. should be proud of a tremendous career in journalism spent serving his community and keeping his readers informed of the issues that matter to our region,” U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, wrote in an email. “I wish him the best and look forward to working with him in the future as he continues his work as a tireless champion for Fort Drum and a friend to the Watertown community.”

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, also wished Mr. Johnson the best in an emailed statement.

“His love of journalism — as well as his belief in the future of our region — has been evident in his work,” she said. “If you wanted to know how Mr. Johnson felt, all you needed to do is pick up a copy of the Watertown Daily Times.”

Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, chairwoman of the Jefferson County Legislature, noted that she could disagree with Mr. Johnson, but it didn’t prevent their friendship.

“John and I have not always seen eye to eye on issues,” she wrote in an email. “Yet over the many years, while we have comfortably, and sometimes not so comfortably, disagreed with one another, John and I have remained long-time friends. And, I do cherish that!”

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