Taos News publisher inducted into NMPA Hall of Fame
Chris Baker, publisher of the weekly Taos News, was inducted into the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame during the group’s annual conference Saturday (Oct. 27) in Albuquerque.
Baker was described as a man devoted to community newspapers and to the communities they serve.
“He’s always paying it forward,” said Sean McCleneghan, former head of the journalism department at New Mexico State University and Baker’s mentor when he was a student there. Baker joined The Taos
News as publisher in 2000 after more than a decade as a journalist, ad director and publisher at newspapers around the West. It was his “dream job,” said Clara Garcia, editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
Baker tripled revenues in his first three years at The
Taos News. He’s led the paper to eight General Excellence awards from the National Newspaper Association
(2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012,
2014, 2016, 2018 ) and 16 General Excellence awards from NMPA.
“He was always probing, always redoing systems and always trying to understand why certain ideas worked and did not work,” said McCleneghan.
Baker, in accepting the award, credited the newspaper’s
success to its staff and its owner, Robin Martin, who also owns the daily Santa Fe New Mexican.
Baker was known for helping young people get their shot in the industry. Garcia met Baker two decades ago when she applied for a job as a reporter at the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
“I have to admit, he initially terrified me,” Garcia wrote recently. “I remember walking into his office, immediately realizing this was someone who knew exactly what he wanted in a reporter and I wasn’t sure I was it.”
He gave her a chance.
“As time went on, I realized Chris was a formidable businessman, but more so, a passionate newspaperman, who wanted the best for the newspaper, its employees, the local businesses and the community,” Garcia said.
Baker studied journalism and business at NMSU, where McCleneghan was his mentor. After graduation, he interned in the Río Grande Valley of Texas. He went on to work at newspapers in Arizona, California and Kansas.
He eventually returned to New Mexico where he was hired as publisher at the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
He has served on 23 nonprofit boards, including NMPA, the Taos County Chamber of Commerce and the Taos Integrated School of the Arts.
In Taos, he launched an annual event called Tradiciones, which honors nine Unsung Heroes and a Citizen of the Year. Regularly attended by hundreds from the community, the event showcases the diverse cultures and history of Taos County.
Baker has helped other newspapers with insights into new revenue streams.
Garcia described Baker as a “scrappy, energetic, relentless achiever who never gives up. As newspapers and media reel from the myriad challenges of revenue and audience, he’s a shining example of staying true to your cause and never giving up.”
From left: Chris Baker, publisher of The Taos News, and Sean McCleneghan, former head of the journalism department at New Mexico State University.