The Paducah Sun will welcome a new executive editor in February.
Steve M. Wilson, a Rock Island, Ill., native who most recently served as editor of the Kentucky Enquirer in northern Kentucky, will take the reins in The Paducah Sun newsroom around mid-month.
Wilson has more than 30 years of experience in senior newspaper jobs, most of them at major metros. As managing editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1984-1986, Wilson edited and directed a year-long project "Life on the Land: An American Farm Family" which won that newspaper's first Pulitzer Prize.
Wilson and Paducah Sun Editor and Publisher Jim Paxton know one another from their early newspaper days in Lexington, Ky., where Wilson was editor of the Lexington Leader and Paxton was a city hall reporter and business writer for the rival (but jointly owned) Lexington Herald.
Wilson says journalism has been a part of his life since childhood. His father worked as the editor of Rock Island's newspaper, and he has always found the field rewarding.
"The best reporting aggressively covers the news that matters most and topics that interest people, and does so accurately and fairly. But it goes beyond that. It provides context and digs beneath the surface to explain not just what happened, but how and why," he said.
The newspaperman says the Internet and social media have bruised newspapers in recent years, but his outlook for the industry remains positive.
"They have lost some revenue, but not relevance," Wilson said of newspapers. "The world is exploding with an overload of information, and news organizations that can gather it, sort it, and make sense of it are more valuable today than ever."
He counts the Sun among such organizations.
"I think that the Sun has long served the Paducah region as a trusted source of information and as a forum for community engagement, and it will be my job to build on that tradition," he said.
Wilson added that he looks forward to the move, which will bring him closer to his son Tim, who works in Paducah and lives with his family in Hickory.
"I grew up in a Midwest river town, and I expect that people in Paducah have some of the same virtues as people in my hometown," said Wilson, citing friendliness, straightforwardness and a strong work ethic among them.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Wilson's achievements include becoming the youngest top editor in the Knight-Ridder newspaper organization at the Lexington Leader at age 30. He received Journalist of the Year and Manager of the Year awards at the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Progress, where he led the newspaper to the top award for general excellence from the Arizona Press Association for five consecutive years, including a year in which the newspaper won all 11 of the first-place awards.
He also worked as assistant to the executive editor at the Detroit Free Press, assistant to the editor at The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis, and deputy managing editor and columnist for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix.
In addition to his newspaper career, Wilson served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Micronesia and as a military policeman in the United States Army.
Wilson and Paxton first crossed paths in the 1980s, while working at the rival Lexington newspapers, which shared a common newsroom. (The two newspapers later merged and are now the Lexington Herald-Leader).
"The staffs of the two papers had a healthy rivalry. We were clearly competitive, but we didn't throw things at each other," Wilson recalled.
The two got back in touch a little more than a year ago. Paxton said he couldn't be more proud to have a journalist of Wilson's caliber to lead the news operations of the Sun.
"Journalistic excellence has followed Steve everywhere he has been, and I look forward to what he will accomplish for our newsroom and for the readers of The Paducah Sun," Paxton said.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.