When Lew Rees sat at his new desk at The Daily Courier, on Aug. 30, he carried on a wide-ranging conversation in a calm, cool and collected tone.
His demeanor seemed a far cry from the rambunctious Rees who residents here grew accustomed to when he served for 10 years as the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce director and, later, as an energetic spokesman for the Fain Signature Group.
But make no mistake, Rees, 70, is as enthusiastic as ever. On Aug. 20, Rees, who had been living in Anthem for the past five years, returned to Prescott Valley as the events/marketing director for Western News&Info, the Courier’s parent company. One of his goals for the group of 10 newspapers — from the Quad Cities, to Williams, Cottonwood, Lake Havasu and Kingman — is to promote the newspapers in the communities, embracing area nonprofits.
“I’m going to create as many event opportunities and promotional opportunities as I possibly can every year for each of the newspapers in Western News&Info,” Rees said. “We’re going to have a wide range of events that’ll touch every element of community life. It’s exciting and rewarding to somebody like me.”
One major challenge for newspapers in the early 21st century is trying to engage more Millennials. Rees isn’t naïve about the internet and the Information Age’s “tremendous impact on newspapers.”
Rees said that although he respects the internet’s contribution to the news media at WNI and Prescott News Network, he wants to work on a program “to get newspapers into the hands of young people.”
“I think it will come back,” Rees said of newspapers. “I truly think that people will grow tired of looking at a screen that doesn’t have personality. Newspapers have personality. It’s just like reading books. Books have made a great comeback. There’s nothing like picking up a newspaper and reading through the pages.”
If there’s one thing you should understand about Rees, a native Arizonan, it’s that he loves an audience.
Known for his friendly, booming voice and the larger-than-life persona that he shared on local radio, TV and at Prescott Valley Event Center as an emcee for minor league hockey games of the former Arizona Sundogs, Rees commands your attention.
Rees said when WNI Executive Vice President Kit Atwell gave him the go-ahead for his new position, he told her that he would “do anything and everything that she asks of me with the experience that I have.”
With Atwell’s blessing, Rees added that he’s “coining a new label or brand” for publication in WNI’s daily and weekly newspapers. For example, for The Daily Courier, it’s “The Courier Cares.” For the Prescott Valley Tribune, it is “The Tribune Cares.”
“Right below that [Cares] logo, it will say, ‘Community, Commerce, Communication,’” Rees said. “We’re looking to touch all elements of community. … I want people to understand, in every one of our communities that we represent, that these newspapers are not only the best tool for news that you can find. But they also continue, and always have, given back to the people of the communities in which they serve.”
Atwell said she has known Rees for years, since serving on the Chamber’s board. “I worked with Lew years ago, and the level of energy, determination and enthusiasm that he brings to any endeavor is infectious,” she said. “Prescott News Network is very lucky to have someone of his talents working with the newspapers.”
Blake DeWitt, senior vice president for WNI, said Rees’ experience will not only benefit the newspapers but also many parts of the community. “He lifts people up,” DeWitt said, “to the point that he helps create an atmosphere of optimism.”
A master marketer and advertiser, Rees said “newspapers have always been a part of my life.” At age 9, Rees got his start as a paperboy in his native Phoenix. He added that he later wrote sports articles for newspapers and penned a column named, “On the Positive Side.” Rees was in sales, too.
Lew Rees Sr., Rees’ father, was a newspaperman his entire life. He worked for The Arizona Republic and the now-defunct Phoenix Gazette.
“A newspaper, to me, is as Americana as apple pie,” Rees said. “I love newspapers. There’s nothing better than a newspaper. … The ink is in my blood.”