Tribune Publishing Co. named Richard J. "Rick" Daniels as publisher and CEO of The Baltimore Sun Media Group on Tuesday, dropping "interim" from the title it gave him in September.
Daniels, 58, becomes the 18th publisher for Maryland's 179-year-old news organizationafter filling in since Tribune Publishing transferred Tim Ryan to California to lead the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune. Tribune Publishing also owns the Chicago Tribune and other news organizations.
Daniels has been publisher of the Hartford Courant, another Tribune Publishing property, since 2014. In his new position, Daniels oversees media groups anchored by The Sun and The Morning Call, based in Allentown, Pa.
A Boston native who was the first in his family to graduate from college, Daniels has worked in the news business for more than 30 years and said he has developed a passion for good journalism.
Daniels said he viewed The Baltimore Sun as "one of the last, best places," where journalism drives the business, and not the other way around.
Prior to the Hartford paper, Daniels was president at The Boston Globe and CEO at GateHouse Media New England, which published 100 print titles and more than 150 websites.
At The Globe, he was involved in the launch of its first website and was there when the newspaper published its investigation of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The work instilled in him the importance of transparency, he said.
"By nature I'm a fairly suspicious person when things are not disclosed and I firmly believe that one of the greatest pieces of wisdom … is sunshine is the best disinfectant," he said.
Daniels, who will move to Baltimore while keeping a house in Massachusetts, said he intends to maintain The Sun's focus on good journalism. He said he expects the paper to continue reporting on the region's economic disparities.
"We have to keep shining the light on that," he said.
The Baltimore Sun Media Group includes such local newspapers as The Capital in Annapolis, the Carroll County Times, The Aegis in Harford County, the Howard County Times, and Baltimore's alternative weekly City Paper, as well as their websites and other publications.
Newspapers have been struggling in recent years with the loss of the advertising revenue that long supported their missions to the Internet, social media and mobile devices.
"The challenge for all publishing companies, for all properties, is to adapt to an ever-changing business model and to devise one that works and still keeps the high level of local relevance that we have and that we've built," Daniels said.
Daniels said there is more work to be done integrating The Sun's newer acquisitions, including the Annapolis and Carroll County papers, into the larger company. He also hopes to boost revenue by expanding events, figure out ways to incorporate sponsored content and make further use of the Tribune organization's scale.
Tribune has been trying to build a national advertising sales force as part of a growth strategy intended to leverage the reach of its many media properties.
Daniels is being replaced in Hartford by Tom Wiley, who has worked at Berkshire Hathaway, Lee Enterprises and most recently Digital First Media, where he served as executive vice president of sales.
"Today's announcement underscores our company's bench strength and the ability to attract top talent," said Denise Warren, CEO of East Coast Publishing for Tribune and its president of digital, in an email to the staff.
In Hartford, Daniels said, he was proud to have relaunched weekly community papers, and cited the recent addition of features beloved by readers and advertisers, such as a regular hometown hero column.
Oz Griebel, president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance, where Daniels sat on the board, said he was outgoing, personable and involved during his brief time in Connecticut.
"I feel badly he's leaving because we were just getting to really work with him," he said.
Josh Fenton, the CEO of GoLocal 24, who worked with Daniels for a short stint at the company that runs digital news sites in Providence, R.I., Worcester, Mass. and Portland, Ore., said Daniels' experience launching boston.com made him stand out among most newspaper executives.
"He's a little bit at the cutting edge of the digital transformation," he said, describing Daniels as "incredibly smart."
At GateHouse, Daniels' tenure coincided with staff cuts that came as newspapers lost advertising and following the recession and financial crisis.
The Baltimore Sun also has seen its staff shrink and the media group now employs about 720 people, Daniels said. He declined to disclose revenue figures, citing rules that govern public companies, but said both The Sun and The Morning Call are "cash flow-positive and profitable."
"There are no cuts planned, but we are also planning on a certain level of revenues and we have to make sure we can attain those," he said of The Sun.
Chazy Dowaliby, who worked with Daniels as editor of GateHouse's Patriot Ledger and Enterprise of Brockton, said Daniels did "what had to be done for the greater good but he didn't do it without thought and plan and, if in the end, it had to be done, without an understanding of the impact it would have."
Daniels and GateHouse, Dowaliby said, supported the paper in legal battles, including successfully seeking to force authorities to disclose documents related to a case involving a prominent real estate developer accused of juvenile rape.
"Rick Daniels brings an incredible commitment to the mission of journalism that serves the public interest," said Dowaliby, who is retiring this month. "I have never in a career that started in 1969 ever worked with a publisher I respected or trusted more and that says a lot."
Daniels left Gatehouse to join a group that made an unsuccessful bid to buy The Globe when The New York Times offered it for sale.
"We do this because we think it's really, really important," he said. "It's a passion at a personal and professional level."