Members of the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA), meeting at the organization’s annual summit at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, today elected Palo Alto Weekly Publisher William S. “Bill” Johnson as 2017-18 president of the 129-year-old organization.
Johnson is the founder and publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly and president and CEO of Embarcadero Media, an independent media company that operates four community newspapers, six community websites and publishes specialty publications and digital media enterprises on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the East Bay.
The newspapers – the Palo Alto Weekly, the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Pleasanton Weekly – and websites serve some of the most affluent and highly educated communities in the nation, home to many Silicon Valley executives, venture capitalists, high tech entrepreneurs and nationally recognized scientific and educational leaders.
Johnson is well-known locally as an innovator and game-changer who places a high priority on community service and using his newspapers to thoughtfully explore important issues. Born and raised in the Palo Alto area, he graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in communications and went to work for Congressman Pete McCloskey and the California Coastal Commission.
In 1979, after the Chicago Tribune acquired Palo Alto’s longtime daily newspaper and merged it with another local paper, Johnson and 15 investors launched the hyper-local Palo Alto Weekly, devoted to the kind of in-depth coverage of city and community issues that regional dailies were not providing.
In January 1994, the Palo Alto Weekly became the first newspaper in the United States to publish its entire editorial content on the World Wide Web. Since then, Johnson, ever forward-thinking, has led the development of additional innovative digital initiatives, including an online discussion forum, a daily news email, a weekly arts and entertainment email, an online pay meter and a lifestyle digital publication focused on millennials.
Johnson’s commitment to philanthropy has resulted in ongoing support for local community organizations, most significantly through the company’s annual charitable-giving campaign. The Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund alone has made $6.5 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations since its inception in 1993.
Johnson, an early graduate of the American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley Fellows program, has served on the boards and committees of numerous professional and community organizations, including the First Amendment Coalition, CNPA, the National Advisory Board for the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Palo Alto Rotary, the Palo Alto Community Fund, and the Palo Alto Foundation for Education, among others.
Johnson’s professional and charitable work has been widely recognized, including with the Palo Alto community’s top civic honor, the Tall Tree Award, and – with his wife, Terri Lobdell – with the Josephine and Frank Duveneck Humanitarian Award from the nonprofit Hidden Villa (the same year Joan Baez was recognized).
Seeking to be an environmental leader, Johnson also ensured that the company’s headquarters, when built in 2009, was LEED gold rated.
Embarcadero Media and its newspapers and websites are highly respected throughout the state and have received numerous awards for editorial and design excellence, including General Excellence and Best Web Site multiple times from CNPA.
In his service to the California news industry, Johnson has been a member of the CNPA Board of Directors since 1989. As an officer, he previously served as secretary-treasurer and president-elect, which carries the additional task of chairing the annual CNPA Press Summit. He succeeds Michelle Chantry, The Bakersfield Californian, as CNPA president, and was installed by 2012 CNPA President John Burns, Petaluma Argus-Courier.
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