Published: Sunday, February 11, 2007
Newspaper picks experienced editor to lead newsroom
The Vindicator's new editor said he's been a leader and organizer since his youth.
YOUNGSTOWN The Vindicator has named Todd Franko, a Buffalo native who's held editor positions at five newspapers, as its editor.
Franko, 40, most recently served as metro editor of the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. He replaces Paul C. Jagnow, who retired last year as The Vindicator's managing editor.
"We have a tradition of great reporting of local news that we believe Todd is well-suited to continue as we expand in the information age," said Mark Brown, The Vindicator's general manager.
The increased emphasis newspapers, such as The Vindicator, are placing on technology, particularly the Internet, makes this a "phenomenal time" to be a journalist, Franko said.
"Print journalists have always been the best at telling the best stories," he said. "We didn't always have the best technology. Audio and video tend to strike a human dynamic in a way print can't. But now we have all those abilities."
The circulation of print newspapers will face its challenges, Franko said. But with an emphasis on providing news through Web sites, more people will turn to reliable sources, such as newspaper journalists, for information they crave.
"We're trained and responsible," he said. "The public's put a lot of trust in us for the better part of two centuries. We survived radio. We survived television. We survived cable. That tells me we're pretty good at what we do. This is the golden age of newspapers."
Growing up in Buffalo, Franko described himself as not the best student, but someone who was a leader and organizer at an early age. As a kid, Franko organized a Muscular Dystrophy Association carnival in his neighborhood.
"I was the nosy kid in class who asked a lot of questions," he said. "I love to know what's going on, and I love to share it with others."
His passion for journalism began while he was a student at Erie Community College in Buffalo.
"I was in the student union and took a wrong turn down a hallway, and there was the school newspaper," Franko said. "I fell in love with it."
After 11/2 semesters at Erie, Franko transferred to the State University of New York College at Brockport. He graduated in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in communications with a journalism concentration.
His first job after college in May 1989 was as a copy editor for the Corning Leader in New York. About nine months later, the newspaper launched a Sunday edition, and Franko was named Sunday editor. A year later, the newspaper promoted him to city editor.
Franko left Corning in January 1993 and spent more than four years as managing editor of the Columbus Telegram in Nebraska. At the time, it was the farthest west he'd ever been.
From Nebraska, Franko spent nearly seven years as managing editor of the Sandusky Register, where he oversaw a 31-member editorial department.
"I fell in love with Sandusky and the area," he said. "... It's a great place. I still remember it fondly."
Though Franko says he likes "old-school newspapering," he believes it's important to also take a community leadership role, something he did in Sandusky. While there, he served on the Sandusky State Theatre board, various Sandusky business groups, and volunteered his time as a youth sports coach, even though he didn't have children at the time.
"Youth sports kept me out of trouble when I was a kid," Franko said.
There are many important lessons to be learned playing youth sports, he said, including working well with others, accepting defeat and being motivated to try again.
As a kid, he played hockey, baseball and lacrosse and also was involved with his local Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
"I look at sports as a phenomenal tool in developing young people," Franko said.
Franko said his sports participation relates well with running a newspaper, particularly hockey.
Franko describes himself as a fierce competitor, and if there is conflict, "I try to keep it from escalating. But if a throw-down [is] needed, I'd do it."
Franko left Sandusky in February 2004 to become editor for the Post Tribune of Northwest Indiana in Merrillville.
After a little over a year there, Franko was hired in June 2005 at the Rockford newspaper.
"Rockford was a great experience, and my expectations were exceeded," he said.
Franko worked extensively with online and enterprise content in Rockford.
There are a lot of similarities between Rockford and Youngstown, Franko said.
The two are "core cities that [are] still the center of a lot of activity, government, cultural, financial and business, but a core city with huge population struggles with crime, poverty, etc." he said.
Franko envisioned staying with the Gannett Co., owners of the Rockford newspaper and the largest newspaper group in the country in terms of circulation, for several years.
But when he learned of the editor's job in Youngstown, it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
Franko said he's eager to meet the challenges that face him here.
"If I'm here for 20 years, I'm a happy guy," he said.
Franko's wife, Terrie, and their three boys, Mitchell, 9; Maxwell, 8; and Maguire, 6, will relocate here after the school year ends.