New publisher, editor named at USA TODAY

Gannett gci turned the top business and editorial positions at USA TODAY over to longtime company veterans on Tuesday.

David Hunke — who had been publisher of Gannett's Detroit Free Press and CEO of a business partnership with MediaNews Group's The Detroit News — was named president and publisher of Gannett's flagship daily. He replaces Craig Moon, who left the paper April 17.

Hunke immediately promoted John Hillkirk, who has been with USA TODAY since it launched in 1982, to editor from executive editor. The leading position in the newsroom had been held by Ken Paulson until he left in February to become president of the Newseum and Freedom Forum.

Hunke and Hillkirk take charge of USA TODAY at a time when the newspaper industry is grappling with the recession, growing competition from digital media, and changes in reading habits. About 2.1 million people get the newspaper each day.

Hunke, who turned 57 this week, says he's optimistic about the newspaper's prospects and wants to "instill in everybody a sense of a very bold future" especially when the economy improves.

"I believe in very aggressive newspapers," he says. "News is at the forefront of everything that's on my mind."

Last week the Free Press won a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting for its coverage of a scandal that brought down Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Hunke also oversaw a recent effort to promote use of the Detroit dailies' websites while also reducing home delivery to three days a week.

He says that he'll reassess USA TODAY's digital strategy — and consider charging a fee for some features.

"We have to begin to look to find ways to get a premium price for unique USA TODAY content," he says. "We'll talk a lot about that."

Hillkirk, 53, also says that he's open to trying out new ideas for digital platforms or the newspaper — especially those that come from front-line reporters and employees.

"People who are doing the work and covering the beats are far closer to what the audience wants and what works," he says.

Exclusive enterprise and investigative stories "will be one of our utmost priorities," he says. He says he'll maintain USA TODAY's strict limits on the use of unnamed sources.