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Speer to retire

Longtime News publisher bids farewell next month

News Photo by Justin A. Hinkley Bill Speer, longtime publisher of The Alpena News, reads a copy of his newspaper recently in front of tall stacks of newsprint stored at the newspaper in downtown Alpena. Speer will retire next month after 42 years in journalism, 33 of those years in Alpena, including 30 as publisher.

ALPENA — Forty-two years ago, Alpena News Publisher Bill Speer began his professional career as a journalist.

On Feb. 11, when he turns out the lights to his office for the last time, he will end a career that spanned three states, numerous roles, and that has seen him supervise hundreds of employees.

After graduating from West Virginia University, Speer began his career in August 1978 with The Intelligencer newspaper in Wheeling, West Virginia. In addition to covering local governments, he was responsible for covering the area’s steel and coal industries. In 1981, he was named Ohio Bureau Editor of The Intelligencer, and, in 1988, he moved to Alpena to become editor of The Alpena News. He added the title of publisher to his duties in 1991.

Speer has received numerous awards for his reporting and writing in West Virginia, Ohio, and Michigan over the years. As a reporter, he covered everything from violent United Mine Worker strikes to millage proposals, presidential visits to local politics.

At The Alpena News, Speer has overseen the transition of a hometown newspaper owned for decades by the Richards family to Ogden Newspapers, which bought the paper in 1988. In addition, he helped transition the newspaper from an evening to a morning publication, introduced the expanded Weekend Edition, and saw the potential of the internet for the newspaper, utilizing the skill sets of the staff to be early Web designers and page developers.

He also helped develop the popular Business Expo hosted by the newspaper each year, as well as the Newspapers In Education Book Sale.

While technology has changed much of the industry over the years, Speer said community journalism — strong storytelling, objective reporting, and gathering all the facts — still remain the cornerstone of The Alpena News.

“That has never changed and never will,” he said. “Alpena News staff members pride themselves on the important job they have of reporting the news accurately and completely.”

Speer, 64, said his years in Alpena have been wonderful, with a quality of life that is hard to beat.

“It was that quality of life that made it easy to want to stay here, raise our two boys, and make Northeast Michigan our home,” he said.

Speer’s wife, Diane, was the longtime Lifestyles editor at The News. She retired in November 2018.

While sons Jeremy and Andrew were growing up, Speer coached many of their sports teams. He also was involved in numerous civic organizations, serving as president or leading campaigns for many of them. He is a Paul Harris Fellow with the Alpena Rotary Club and serves as an elder with Word of Life Baptist Church.

Speer was president of the Michigan Press Association in 2015 at a time when the organization was going through a critical transition. During his tenure, he had to deal with the hiring of a new CEO and helped navigate the organization through some new territory as many newspapers across the state reduced publication days or switched to all-electronic versions.

“It has been an honor to work with all the many talented people who have walked through these doors,” Speer said. “It is amazing the dedication, hard work, and passion for their jobs that has made each of them so special. This community is so lucky to still have a local newspaper like ours, especially one that offers the quality of content that we do.”

Speer will continue his weekly column with the newspaper, even after his retirement.

“Writing is part of who I am,” he said. “I think that black newsprint flows through these veins.”

In addition to that, however, he is looking forward to traveling more with his wife. Part of those travels will take him to Royal Oak, where two granddaughters live, as well as Tiffin, Ohio, where two other granddaughters reside.

“As I reflect on my life’s journey, I feel blessed to have spent so much of it here in Alpena,” Speer said. “Soon, I will begin a new chapter, and I’m anxious to see what those pages hold.”

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