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Trib CEO Jennifer Bertetto named Publisher of the Year

Jennifer Bertetto, president and CEO of Trib Total Media, has been recognized as Publisher of the Year by Editor & Publisher, the leading trade publication for the newspaper industry.

Editor & Publisher names its Publisher of the Year annually to honor a publisher “who has risen above the rest and accomplished what seems like the impossible, outmaneuvering the competition, outthinking the future and maintaining profitability.”

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a day when I would be named Publisher of the Year, but it is an incredible honor,” Bertetto said. “It is one I do not carry alone. You can only get such recognition when you have incredible people working around you, and I have that in every corner of the company.”

Bertetto, of Lower Burrell, took the helm at Trib Total Media in January 2015, after the company’s previous owner, Richard Scaife, died.

“At that time, we were facing significant losses that were so enormous we were going to be out of business in May 2017 if we didn’t make fundamental changes,” Bertetto said.

Bertetto said she saw the need for changes to the company’s operations that would cut costs and set Trib Total Media on a path forward in an evolving news industry.

“Jennifer understands and respects the craft of journalism,” said Luis Fabregas, the Tribune-Review’s executive editor. “She understands the value of a good story, and she truly is able to recognize that we’re a better society because of local journalism. To have that as our guiding philosophy has been priceless.”

Bertetto shifted strategies to focus on more hyperlocal news — something the company now emphasizes in its Neighborhood News Network, which includes over 30 hyperlocal news sites — and eliminate the Pittsburgh print paper in favor of a digital format.

She also encouraged a shift in mentality, urging employees to focus more on what readers felt was most important, said Joe Lawrence, general counsel for Trib Total Media.

He credited Bertetto for her patience and dedication in implementing the changes she felt were necessary to keep the company alive. Lawrence described her leadership style as one of love for the Trib and the local news industry, combined with determination to take the company into the future.

“She has seen the future, created a vision for the company and then stayed with that love-and-determination formula that she has, that allowed us to be at the forefront,” Lawrence said.

Bertetto, who is approaching her 25th anniversary with Trib Total Media, started working for the Valley News Dispatch, recording sports scores while in high school, before she rose through the ranks with the company.

“She is as entrenched in what we do as anyone,” said Jennifer Walters, chief financial officer.

The depth of her experience with the company has helped guide her leadership, Bertetto said.

“Having grown up at the company, I understood it in a very unique way,” she said.

Because of Bertetto’s leadership, Walters said, the company is no longer in the “underdog position” it had been in when Bertetto stepped into the role of president and CEO.

“We are the number one source of news in Western Pennsylvania,” Walters said. “That is because of Jennifer Bertetto.”

Bertetto has empowered employees to take on new challenges, Fabregas said. She supported the idea of creating longform documentaries and videos, something the Trib began doing a few years ago.

That resulted in three regional Emmy Awards for the company.

Bertetto spearheaded an effort to help Afghan journalists relocate after the Taliban reclaimed power there. Trib Total Media welcomed Afghan journalist Fahim Abed to the newsroom as part of the initiative, which spread worldwide, Bertetto said.

Bertetto also highlighted the company’s efforts to provide $2.5 million in matching advertising grants since 2020 to small, local businesses recovering from the covid-19 pandemic and other hardships as another recent initiative she was proud to see the company launch.

Bertetto in February testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in favor of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, a measure that would allow local news outlets to negotiate fair compensation from large digital platforms that use their content.

“Jennifer is a warrior for the freedom of the press,” said Matt Miller, chief revenue officer for Trib Total Media. “She understands newspapers’ role in supporting democracy, informing voters, facilitating public debate, holding our powers accountable, taking stands on complex issues, combating disinformation and so much more.”

Bertetto said some people may have questioned her decisions when she first took the reins at Trib Total Media. Some of the changes she made — like moving Pittsburgh coverage to a digital platform — were “highly unusual” at the time, though more common today, she said.
“If we hadn’t made those changes, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bertetto said.

Bertetto said she keeps in mind the needs of her employees and the community the company serves in such decision-making.
“I think it’s important that you understand what makes your company special and make sure you’re doing everything that you can to keep those very special aspects viable for the long term,” she said.

Bertetto was presented the Publisher of the Year award Thursday, October 13 in Harrisburg. Prior winners include Judi Terzotis of NOLA.com and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, P.J. Browning of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier and Terry Egger of the Philadelphia Media Network.

As she reflected on the recognition, Bertetto said she thought of a plaque that sits in her office. It reads: “The best is yet to come.”

She remembered using that line to reassure people when she took over the helm at Trib Total Media at a time when many had concerns about the company’s future.

“I always believed that in my heart,” Bertetto said, “and I still believe that today.”