Given today’s media landscape, who will be the next Charlotte Magazine publisher?

Given today’s media landscape, who will be the next Charlotte Magazine publisher?
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On Friday, Charlotte Magazine Publisher Richard Thurmond formally announced that he is leaving the magazine and taking the position of senior vice president at Center City Partners.

Charlotte Magazine’s mothership is a company named Morris Communications based out of Augusta, Georgia. I’m a big fan of the company’s media portfolio and I especially love city magazines in metro markets like Charlotte.

Charlotte Magazine has a huge opportunity to accelerate growth given the inevitable decline of newspapers and television. 

Who will take Richard’s place as publisher of this city magazine?

The question of who should be publisher is really interesting. It’s interesting because it’s a bunch of questions about the future of media wrapped up in one.


What business model will Charlotte Magazine choose to remain successful in today’s media landscape?

What skill set is most important to lead a successful for-profit media enterprise?

What type of talent needs to be in charge – a proven corporate leader or a proven entrepreneurial leader?

Do you hire somebody with a strong revenue background or a strong journalism background?

Morris Communications may very well hire an internal candidate from outside Charlotte, but here’s a look at a few strong local candidates and why they make sense depending on the corporate strategy at Morris Communications.

Sarah Crosland


Current Job: Director of Observer Content Studio & Executive Editor of Magazines at The Charlotte Observer (Linkedin).

Why Sarah?

  • Background. Sarah’s background is perfect – magazines, newsletters, new products, special sections and sponsored content at the Observer.
  • Sales. Huge sales rolodex from being a Charlotte tastemaker for 8 years.
  • New revenue. Aggressively into alternative forms of monetization and distribution including vertical newsletters and sponsored content.
  • Familiarity. Before the Observer, Sarah was an associate editor at Charlotte Magazine.

Open Question: Will Morris Communication think that Sarah is just an old school newspaper magazine person or will they really dig deep into her current responsibilities and see that she knows how to make money?

Michael Graff


Current Job: Executive Editor at Charlotte Magazine (Linkedin).

Why Michael?

  • Momentum. Charlotte Magazine is operating at a high level and Michael is currently a large part of making that happen.
  • Reader revenue. Given a deep understanding of magazine readership, Michael has the potential to develop direct revenue relationships with more of Charlotte – think HBO of Charlotte.

Open Question: Will Michael want the P&L and sales responsibilities as a publisher or will he want to continue to do what he loves, editorial?

Corporate Regionalization


Morris Communications (Charlotte Magazine’s corporate overlord) could play the “regionalization” card and not fill the position.

The Case for Mr. Regionalization:

  • Outdated. The role of “publisher” is a thing of the past and local markets need to be focused on building audience and selling squares against that audience. Anyt other humans are overhead.
  • Profits. Publishers costs money that eat into profits. If major decision making is being done at the corporate level the role for local management isn’t important.

Open Question: Does Morris Communications want to play offense of defense?

Brett Barter & JP Grice

Current Position: Founders, QC Exclusive (Linkedin)

Why Brett & JP?

  • Revenue. An additional magazine in the portfolio means synergy and more money. Whole new account list to cross sell, etc. You get it.
  • Scale. Instead of two magazine sales teams competing against each other in Charlotte, you’d have one.
  • Entrepreneurs. Media needs more people that make stuff happen, you’re getting two guys that build something from nothing – a rare and valuable find in today’s media landscape.

Open question: Will Morris Communications buy QC Exclusive at a price that makes sense for Brett & JP?

Ann Caulkins


Current Position: Publisher, The Charlotte Observer & The Rock Hill Herald (Linkedin)

Why Ann?

  • Operations. One of the top media executives in the Southeast.
  • Sales. Best sales leader in the Charlotte.
  • Relationships. Could pick up the phone and generate a tremendous amount of revenue, from day one.
  • Shock the city. Hiring away Ann would rock the Charlotte media landscape and Morris Communications would basically be saying, “Charlotte Magazine’s ambitions have increased… over the next few years, we will commit to becoming the media company of record for the city of Charlotte.”

Open Question: Ann is a senior leader and would be very expensive  – will Morris Communications see the value in being aggressive and understand just how much revenue Ann would drive?

Cristina Wilson


Current Position: Chief Operating Officer / Partner, Charlotte Agenda (Linkedin)

Why Cristina?

  • Revenue performance. Cristina took the Charlotte Agenda from a $60,000/yr revenue business to a $850,000/yr revenue business in 12 months.
  • Relationships. Manages a roster of mega-brand clients including: OrthoCarolina, Bank of America, Bojangles’,  Carolinas HealthCare System, Uber, Lowe’s, Allen Tate, Sealed Air, etc.
  • Versatility. Experience in podcasting (launched her own podcast), magazines (editor of Carolina Bride), digital media (Agenda) and book publishing (wrote Carolina Bride Book).

Open Question: Cristina’s skills (building a digital media business from nothing) are in high demand in the media world –  will Charlotte Agenda be able to retain her –  and if she did choose to leave, would Cristina prefer to go national (Vox, Vice, New York Times, etc) or start another company?

Note: I am Cristina’s boss, so this is very uncomfortable for me to write, just being honest.

Jen Rothacker


Current Position: Local Missions at Myers Park Methodist (Linkedin).

Why Jennifer?

  • Journalist that understands revenue. As the Innovations Editor, Jennifer was one of a few employees at the Charlotte Observer that was tasked to think about new business models.
  • Connections. Hyper-connected and a strong leader in the community. Understands community building.

Open Question: Will Jen decide to go back into media?

9 Dark Horses

Morris Communications does not seem like an aggressive company – but here’s the case for a few wildcard candidates if they decide to take an alternative angle to the publisher position.

Laura White – Director of Communications at Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Mac Lackey – Investor

Sherrell Dorsey –  Founder, ThePLUG

Lori Michaels – CTO at American City Business Journals

Susu Bear – Founder, Scoop Charlotte

John Mader – VP of Connections at Wray Ward

Glenn Burkins – Publisher at QCityMetro

Kevin Pitts – Publisher at Charlotte Business Journals

Mike Collins – Host of Charlotte Talks

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