Annual meeting

Casey Award honors community advocacy of Tom Shaw and his family media company

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Everything Shaw Media’s expanding company does has three goals, its president and CEO Tom Shaw says: “In all we do we’re pursuing our three-legged stool of providing relevant information, offering marketing solutions to business partners and advocating for our communities.”

It’s a formula—and an ongoing achievement—that will be recognized Tuesday morning, Oct. 25, during the 131st Annual Meeting when Tom Shaw will receive the Ralph D. Casey/Minnesota Award. The annual award, named in honor of the first director of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications, is intended to honor someone who is an agenda-setter, bringing about change while exemplifying the finest in journalism and community service.

Shaw will be receiving the award 46 years after his first Inland annual meeting, attending with his grandfather who was publisher of the company’s flagship Dixon (Ill.) Telegraph.

“It was almost overwhelming, meeting all those people, but at the same time it was very interesting,” he recalled. Since then, “Inland has been very special to me and my company, and it’s been incredibly important for our industry—especially for our community papers.” 

Shaw noted that a one-time slogan of Inland was “the association that works,” fitting, he said, for a group that offers not just a collegial social and networking environment, but “always high-value resources, training and the like.” 

Shaw was recognized for his many roles at Inland over the years with the Ray Carlsen Distinguished Service Award in 2012. He served on Inland’s board of directors, chairing various committees from 1987 and into the new century. He was association president for the 2007-2008 term and chairman of the board in 2008 -2009. 

Shaw began his newspaper career at the Dixon Telegraph the same year he first attended an Annual Meeting, 1970. He worked in all departments of the paper, and was promoted to publisher and general manager in 1975. In 1986, he was named COO and corporate general manager for Shaw Newspapers. In 1993, he assumed his current position as president and CEO of the renamed Shaw Media.

In this challenging environment, Shaw Media is keeping its “head above water,” he said. 

“There’s been a lot of change, obviously,” Shaw said. “We’ve been acquisitive, we ventured into Pro Football Weekly, we continue to pursue the strategies we’ve developed.”

These days, though, strategies are rarely very long-term, he notes. The rate of change in the media environment can be head-spinning: “You get something that works, and it works for 12 to 18 months. And then it’s time to do something new.”

But Tom Shaw pere’s bed-rock optimism about the future of newspapering, despite its challenges, has clearly been passed down to his three sons. 

J. Tom Shaw is chief digital officer at Shaw Media in a career in the family business that has included several management positions, including as publisher of its Suburban Life Media and the Kane County (Ill.) Chronicle.

After serving in the family business as Shaw Media’s chief technology officer, Ben Shaw in 2014 became director of global advisory for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the association of some 80 member publisher association representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries. Ben Shaw is on the Annual Meeting program the same day his father receives the Casey Award, speaking at the session entitled “A Foreign Affair: Learning From Success Stories ‘Across the Pond” that will highlight the successes of four European media companies.

And Peter Shaw has served since 2009 as the trustee of the trust that owns Shaw Media. 

Tom Shaw notes that they stand in contrast to several family-owned newspaper companies that have chosen to sell their assets because no one in the next generation was prepared or willing to take the reins of the organization. 

“I’m really proud of Ben and Tom and Peter,” Tom Shaw said. “In terms of looking to the future, the tradition continues.”