Taos News pub­lisher in­ducted into NMPA Hall of Fame

The Taos News - - VECINOS -

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.”

Staci Mat­lock

From left: Chris Baker, pub­lisher of The Taos News, and Sean McCleneghan, for­mer head of the jour­nal­ism de­part­ment at New Mex­ico State Univer­sity.

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