Friday, April 18, 2014
Dean Lesher Award


Local Media Association's most prestigious honor. A true accolade of excellence.


Betsy Wilson to Receive Local Media Association's Lifetime Achievement Award

Philadelphia-area publisher with strong leadership ties to LMA chosen for the association's most prestigious award (formerly the Dean Lesher award)

Betsy Wilson started her career as a graphic artist for the tiny Germantown Courier in Philadelphia more than 36 years ago. She went on to hold numerous advertising and management positions and eventually rose to the top of one of suburban Philadelphia's most upscale and successful group of community weeklies.

Wilson grew Montgomery Newspapers into a strong media company with 19 community papers, a large event division and many community and niche websites. She launched Main Line Life in 1995 and went up against two of the area's most respected and revered papers. The new paper went on to win numerous 'newspaper of the year' honors from LMA (then SNA) and was extremely well received by the established community.

"A true leader in the media industry, Betsy Wilson has been raising the bar for community newspapers for 36 years," said Michael Morsh, executive editor of Montgomery Newspapers in his nomination letter, "Throughout her career Betsy has demonstrated innovation, guidance and motivation." During a challenging business climate Betsy understands "how to make difficult decisions and transitions ...but does so with compassion and the understanding of the consequences."

Wilson created an events division that included numerous well-attended and profitable annual events in the Philadelphia area. She also established impressive partnerships with some of the city's biggest events such as the Philadelphia Flower Show. Much larger papers, including the metro daily, were not able to partner in such a way.

Wilson led Journal Register Company's first experiment with the Ben Franklin project. Her team was the first in the company to produce a paper and website without any systems or purchased software (just using open-source options and crowdsourcing).

In 2005, she was elected to chair the Suburban Newspapers of America (now Local Media Association) board of directors. For 12 years, she served LMA and the related Foundation as a board member, marketing committee member and advisor. "Her contributions to LMA were enormous," said Nancy Lane, president of the association, "Betsy was one of the strongest leaders in our organization's history. She is most remembered for her humility by fellow board members and the staff. We are thrilled to see Betsy receive this well-deserved honor."

"I can think of no higher compliment then to admit that we 'borrowed' more good revenue ideas from Betsy's operation than perhaps any other SNA member!" said Steve Parker, co-publisher, Recorder Community Newspapers, "She was remarkably creative and innovative during her years at Montgomery.But what was truly impressive about Betsy was her total lack of pretense. She was a big shot at her company and in the SNA arena, but she never put on airs. She loved what she did and you could tell. That humble sensibility informed her tenure on the SNA board. She was a remarkable role model for everyone."

Wilson will receive the LMA Lifetime Achievement Award (formerly the Dean Lesher Award) at a lunch ceremony on September 19, in St Louis, during the association's annual Fall Conference. Betsy is now enjoying retirement with her husband and two grown children. She still does some consulting work for Digital First Media and remains engaged in the industry.

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