- change ups
The career, rooted in his experience as a young boy delivering copies of the paper his family owned, reached a new level this month when the 45-year-old Bedient became publisher of the Grand Haven Tribune, a 6-day daily publication with a circulation of about 11,000 in northwestern Ottawa County.
To Bedient, who served 11 years as the Tribune's advertising director prior to his appointment as publisher, the ascension to continues a family tradition of sorts. His father and grandfather both served as publisher of the small family newspaper chain in southern Michigan, his brother was publisher of the family's Marshall Chronicle daily paper, and a cousin is publisher of two newspapers in Ohio.
He welcomes label of "newspaper brat" that a former Tribune publisher used in a column announcing his appointment as the paper's ad director in 1989.
"It's a passion," Bedient says of the newspaper business that still holds a daily fascination for him. "When I was 16 I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It's just an interesting business."
That interest began while he was growing up in the business. His grandfather, Jack, owned the daily Albion Recorder and Marshall Chronicle, as well as a weekly shopping publication that Bedient delivered when he was 8 years old.
As a teen-ager he began taking high school sporting events and "grip and grin" photographs. During his career he "has done darn near every job you could" at a newspaper, he said.
After graduating from high school, Bedient went on to Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, where he earned a journalism degree in 1978. His first stop out of college was in advertising sales at the Dixon Evening Telegraph in Dixon, Ill.
After about a year in Dixon, he received a phone call from his father, Blair, who bought the papers from his father in the early 1970s. The call – which included a job offer - was one Bedient had been waiting to hear.
"He said, 'I've got an opening in our ad department. Do you want to come back?' I said I'd be there in two weeks,'" Bedient recalls.
And he stayed there until the late 1980s, a period when the local economy was down and Blair Bedient was receiving periodic inquiries. He decided in 1988 that it was time to sell the company.
"I said, 'you know what. You've put your time in, go ahead. I'll find something else,'" said Paul Bedient, who stayed with the new owner for a year after the company's eventual sale.
One weekend in 1989, while he was vacationing in Grand Haven with his family, Bedient called the then-new publisher of the Tribune, Mayer Maloney. As head of a trade group of small daily newspapers in the state, the Michigan League of Home Dailies, Bedient wanted to offer his congratulations and wish Maloney well.
Their conversation led to Maloney telling Bedient he was looking for a new ad director at the Tribune. They met for breakfast that weekend at a restaurant in Grand Haven to talk.
"It went from there," said Bedient, who recalls interrupting his vacation to meet wearing a t-shirt and cutoffs. He joined the Tribune as ad director soon after.
Bedient, the father for four teen-aged children, was promoted to the top job last year when former Tribune publisher Lee Carter was named publisher of a sister paper in Sandusky, Ohio. He formally took over the position on Jan. 1.
Looking ahead, Bedient wants to undertake a redesign of the Tribune and build on the paper's Internet presence, initiatives that he describes as "middle burner" goals. He also wants to have the Tribune put more focus on features for children to attract younger readers to the paper and hopefully keep them as the grow up.
"Obviously they're our future readers. We need to be able to change to meet their needs," Bedient said.
He also wants to look at new programs to build readership and "become a little more of an active voice in the community." Any changes the paper sees in the future will mesh with maintaining the Tribune's core focus on local news coverage."It's going to remain a community newspaper," Bedient said.