When you think about the city of Philadelphia, it's hard not to imagine Rocky Balboa, the resilient boxer featured in the 1976 film "Rocky," running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and throwing his hands to the sky in victory when he makes it up to the top. It's the perfect metaphor of the Philadelphia Media Network (PMN), home to our 2018 Publisher of the Year Terrance C.Z. "Terry" Egger.
Egger, 61, arrived at PMN in 2015 at a critical point. The parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com had just been purchased by philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and entrepreneur Lewis Katz a year earlier for $88 million. Less than a week after signing the papers, Katz was killed in a plane crash, leaving Lenfest as the sole owner.
At the time, Egger was retired from journalism after spending three decades working in newspapers. The Rock Island, Ill. native received a bachelor's degree in speech and drama from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. and a master's degree in speech communication from San Diego State University. It was during graduate school that a man who worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune encouraged him to consider a career in newspapers. From there, Egger got his start in the business at a small paper in La Jolla, Calif. In 1984, he started working for the Copley Los Angeles Newspapers before moving on to the vice president of advertising position with the Tucson Newspapers in Arizona. In 1996, he joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as its publisher and served there until 2006. That same year, he was named president, publisher and CEO of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where he remained until he retired in 2013.
With a resume like that, it should have been a retirement well-deserved. So, what pulled Egger back to the world of newspapers?
It was simple: "Gerry's vision," Egger told me.
The 88-year-old Lenfest passed away in August, but not before tasking Egger with an important mission: to keep local news alive in Philadelphia.
"You're My Guy"
Egger didn't know Lenfest personally prior to June 2014, when he received a call from Lenfest himself, who was looking for help with running a legacy media company. As the two men spoke, there was an instant connection.
"Gerry was humble and smart, and he had a vision to keep journalism alive in Philly," Egger said. "He wasn't in it for himself. He wanted to find ways to sustain journalism and give resources."
Shortly after that phone call, Egger visited Philadelphia and met with Lenfest for the first time. Lenfest, who was the current publisher, offered him the job, but the timing wasn't right. Cleveland was a finalist to be the host city of the 2016 Republican National Convention, and Egger had already announced he would help lead the Cleveland Host Committee. In July 2014, Cleveland received the news it had won the bid.
"I had to decline," Egger said, "but I told Gerry I would help him in any way I could." He ended up serving as a board member instead.
In September 2014, Egger received another call from Lenfest.
"How long is your assignment?" he asked Egger. It sounded like the owner was still interested in handing over the title of...