WILKES-BARRE — A New York native who recently was named one of the newspaper industry’s top editors under 35 has been appointed executive editor of The Times Leader and the Wilkes-Barre Publishing group of community papers.
George Spohr, who comes to The Times Leader from The Sentinel in Carlisle, will step into his new role on Sept. 16, according to an announcement made Wednesday by Walt T. Lafferty, regional business development director and general manager.
“I love competition,” said Spohr, explaining how he relishes the challenge of working in a two-newspaper town.
He will succeed Times Leader Executive Editor Joe Butkiewicz, whose last day is this week.
Spohr, 32, has been an executive editor for the Lee Enterprises chain of newspapers the past three years, most recently at The Sentinel. He previously held that title at The World, a Lee paper in Coos Bay, Ore.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Spohr’s family moved to St. Lawrence County, in upstate New York near the Canadian border, when he was 5. They later moved to Utica, N.Y., where Spohr landed his first newspaper job.
Spohr was a reporter for what was then the Gannett-owned Observer-Dispatch from 1999 until 2002. He went on to work for the Central New York Business Journal and The Princeton Packet before being named assistant business editor for the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, N.Y., in 2006. He was named metro/business editor for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., the following year, managing three metro reporters, three business reporters, six columnists and a graphic designer.
In 2010, Spohr was named state editor for the Watertown Daily Times in Watertown, N.Y., a position he held until being named executive editor at The World in September 2011.
Spohr moved back East in July 2012, when he took over the helm in Carlisle. It was his work there that brought Spohr to the attention of Editor & Publisher magazine, a newspaper industry trade publication that lauded him as one of their 25 under 35 for 2013 based on his efforts to capitalize on opportunities created when The Patriot-News, in nearby Harrisburg, reduced its print publishing cycle to three days each week.
“Here, they say The Patriot-News is ‘the Harrisburg newspaper,’ but it really is the Cumberland County newspaper,” Spohr said in an interview Wednesday evening. “The competition is pretty heavy, and we fight for every story.”
Spohr said he looks forward to bringing that fighting spirit to Luzerne County. He also plans to bring a passion for embracing new platforms to this intensely competitive media market.
“I think the biggest change in readership over the past few years is that readers used to come to you. They would pick up the newspaper or go to your website,” Spohr said. “Now, they really want you to come to them.”
That, he said, includes engagement via social media sites such as Facebook, which The Sentinel has found effective in generating discussion with its community. “We’ve put a premium on interacting with audiences,” Spohr said.
Lafferty echoed that theme.
“He has been a reporter, business editor, state editor and executive editor in his career and brings an enthusiasm and passion to the job that I am confident you will find contagious,” Lafferty wrote in an email to staff announcing Spohr’s appointment. “He has a solid background in content gathering on all platforms, print, digital and social media.”