Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rushville native leads BSA

Rushville, Nebraska native John Gottschalk has been named President of the Boy Scouts of America. Late last year, he retired as publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, capping a successful journalistic career that started back at the Sheridan County (Neb) Star in the 1950s.

His father, Phil Gottschalk, was publisher of that small Nebraska weekly in Rushville, which had been founded by John’s maternal grandfather, Bill Barnes. The younger Gottschalk performed a variety of duties at the weekly, including back shop work. After high school in Rushville, he went to the University of Nebraska, majoring in political science and journalism. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, Gottschalk bought the Sidney (Neb) Telegraph in 1966 from his father and later also served as Mayor of Sidney. He sold the paper in 1974 and went to work for the Omaha World-Herald in 1975 as an assistant to the president.

Reading through John Gottschalk’s community involvements and philanthropic activities takes more than a few minutes. His civic accomplishments are many and varied; he and his wife, Carmen, have even served as foster parents, caring for more than 100 infants awaiting adoption.

With declining advertising revenue and circulation figures, most major dailies in this country are struggling for their very survival. The Omaha World-Herald, under John Gottschalk’s leadership, has girded itself from many of the demons knocking at the doors of nearly all newspapers across the country and appears to be doing quite well, thank you very much.

John Gottschalk helped diversify the company, which still has the World-Herald at its core, giving it a robustness not realized by many larger papers. The World-Herald is the 53rd largest newspaper in the United States, even though it’s in the 75th largest metropolitan area.

The paper is the only major newspaper in the country that is owned by its own employees.

It still publishes both morning and afternoon editions – something that used to be routine in most cities – but has become a real rarity in the 21st century.

We’re sure that even the World-Herald is facing some tough times, but they’re faring much better than most of their counterparts, thanks largely to John Gottschalk.

I suspect the Boy Scouts of America will benefit from his leadership as well.