McCanless resigns as Telegraph publisher to head United Way

lmorris@macon.comDecember 18, 2012 

Telegraph Publisher George McCanless announced Tuesday that he is resigning to become president and CEO of the United Way of Central Georgia.

His last day at the newspaper will be Jan. 11.

McCanless, who served as the United Way’s 2012 board chairman, will replace retiring United Way President and CEO Ron Watson.

McCanless was appointed publisher of The Telegraph in 2008, arriving from The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., where he was the senior vice president for finance and strategic planning.

One of his most significant accomplishments during his time at The Telegraph was leading a partnership with Mercer University and Georgia Public Broadcasting to help create The Center for Collaborative Journalism. The center brings together The Telegraph newsroom, GPB personnel and Mercer’s journalism school.

“It is an emotional time for me,” McCanless told Telegraph employees Tuesday morning. “I’ve been in the newspaper business for 30 years, almost 20 of them with McClatchy (the California-based company that owns The Telegraph). ... I have been honored to be your publisher. This newspaper will continue to succeed. ... It’s very bittersweet,” he said.

McCanless will join a staff of 13 people at United Way and leaves behind a staff of about 115 at The Telegraph.

Watson, who announced his retirement earlier this year, was hired in 1984 to turn around the local United Way organization, which at that time served just Bibb County and was one of the worst performing United Ways in the country, McCanless said as board chairman at United Way’s annual meeting in March.

During Watson’s leadership the past 28 years, United Way raised more than $100 million, and the organization has about $6 million in annual revenues, more than $7 million in net assets and more than $1 million in reserves, as of March. The agency also has grown to now serve 14 counties in the midstate.

McCanless said the work he’s done with nonprofits over the years made him realize how much he enjoyed doing that kind of work.

“I like helping people,” McCanless said “The United Way is kind of like the newspaper. It’s an incredible community asset, and it has the ability to really help the community solve some of its major problems, especially when it comes to education and taking care of our youth. I’m really excited about having the opportunity to focus on doing some of those things.”

McCanless acknowledged the past few years “have been incredibly challenging” for the newspaper and other businesses, but said he was not leaving because he doesn’t believe in the value of the newspaper.

“While I will no longer be publisher, The Telegraph will continue to be my daily newspaper,” he said.

McClatchy has begun a search for his replacement.

“We appreciate the many contributions George has made to our company and we’ll miss his passion for journalism,” Mark Zieman, vice president of operations for McClatchy, said in a news release. “McClatchy looks forward to continuing and expanding on the local collaborations that George began.”

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