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Changes in leadership at MPC newspapers

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Diane Goodlow, business manager for Marengo Publishing Corporation, was tabbed as the general manager for MPC effective Aug. 11.

 Goodlow replaces MPC Publisher Dan DeBettignies, who left the company for health reasons.

A Brooklyn native and resident, Goodlow, 49, has worked as the business manager at MPC for 16 years. She graduated from BGM High School and has an accounting degree from the University of Iowa.

Goodlow’s new job as general manager is to oversee the operations of the newspapers and shoppers in the MPC group, which totals 10, spanning Benton, Iowa and Poweshiek counties. MPC is owned by the Des Moines Register.

“Throughout Diane’s history with MPC, no one has worked harder,” said Amy Duncan, vice president of Des Moines Register Weekly Newspapers. “She has stepped in as interim publisher earlier and she is very deserving of this promotion to general manager. I have confidence in her ability to continue moving MPC forward and in keeping us focused on how to best serve our readers and advertisers.”

Duncan said DeBettignies has been a tremendous leader for MPC, both as publisher of the Montezuma and Brooklyn newspapers, of the Pennysaver, and most recently, as publisher of Marengo Publishing Corporation.

“He has led the group through some very difficult times for newspapers in general, and has been a key figure in reorganization efforts, always keeping the readers and advertisers in mind as we made our plans,” she said.

DeBettignies said Goodlow has been at the heart of MPC for a number of years and said she will do a great job as the general manager.

“She always wants what is best for all of the employees and I wish her the best,” DeBettignies said.

Goodlow said she has mixed feelings about the new position. She said she hates to see DeBettignies step down, but at the same time she is excited to face a new challenge. She said she is fortunate to have learned from some of the best during her time at MPC, including DeBettignies, Mike Simmons, Don Magdefrau and Al Sieve.

“Our true strength is our knowledgeable and hard-working employees,” Goodlow said. “We have good people in place in all of our offices and I will be depending on them greatly.”

Dan DeBettignies was a mentor

By AMY DUNCAN

Vice President of Weekly Newspapers, The Des Moines Register

It’s no surprise that newspaper publishers often end up as community leaders.

Buy ink by the barrel, use it to print thousands of newspapers that carry your opinions and decisions on news coverage out to an entire community and immediately you are a community leader.

It’s a little tougher for that to happen when you put 300 or so newspaper publishers together in the same room, which is what the Iowa Newspaper Association does every year. But even when the bulk of the publishers of the state’s 300 or so weekly newspapers gather at their annual convention, a few people are recognized as leaders. They’re the people the new publishers seek out as mentors. They’re speaking on panels or introducing speakers. They’re sitting at the head table and in reserved spots, as president of one of our three organizations, or as past president, or award winners.

That’s how I first got to know Dan DeBettignies, Mike Simmons and Don Magdefrau when I started attending the Iowa Newspaper Association years ago. At the time, they were the big dogs. All publishers, Dan of Montezuma and Brooklyn; Mike of Marengo, Williamsburg and North English, and Don of the Blairstown and South Benton papers. Don and Dan were both past presidents.

I was young (VERY young) and they seemed older, wiser and so much more confident about what they were doing than I could ever have hoped to be.

When the Des Moines Register bought the Marengo group of papers, including the Grinnell Pennysaver, the Brooklyn Chronicle and the Montezuma Republican, I got to know the three even better. We held quarterly meetings where we talked about the challenges our newspapers faced (which often were the same) and the solutions and ideas we had for addressing them (which often were different).

Over the years, our jobs changed and we saw each other less frequently. Instead of organized, formal meetings, our conversations became phone calls, usually when I called Dan or one of the others, asking how to handle an angry advertiser or make sure that a controversial story was both fair and sensitive to the community.

Dan and the others became my mentors.

It seemed odd, then, a couple of years ago when the Register named me vice president of weekly newspapers and asked me to oversee the Marengo and Poweshiek newspaper operations. Oversee my old mentors? Yea right!

Don and Mike had retired, but Dan and I quickly established a terrific working relationship. Not so much boss and employee, not even mentor and mentee, but friends and coworkers, working together on something we both cared passionately about.

I think that’s why, when Diane Goodlow called me last February “just to let you know” that Dan had had a stroke, none of us took it too seriously. When Dan called from his hospital bed, we could hear that he was slurring his speech, but we bought it when he said, “I’ll probably be in tomorrow, it’s nothing too serious.”

Tomorrow became next week, and then the week after, and then the week after. It’s finally become clear that this stroke was serious. And while Dan has made tremendous strides in his recovery, it’s also clear that his recovery is a full-time job.

Quite simply, it would not be the right thing for Dan to return to the stress and hard work of running a large newspaper operation. His priority, now, and for the foreseeable future, needs to be his health and his family.

And we’ve come to accept that.

So, as of Aug. 11, Dan will no longer be publisher of MPC or the Poweshiek County paper. The only bright spot is that Diane Goodlow, long-time business manager for MPC will take over as general manager for the entire operation. She will rely heavily on Jill Brown, advertising manager in Grinnell; on Jim Magdefrau in Benton County, and Nick Narigon in Iowa County, to make sure all is running smoothly.

In the mean time, if you have questions or concerns, please contact me at aduncan@dmreg.com.

UPDATED August 5, 2009 9:19 AM

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