Pacific Northwest native RJ Benner has been named the publisher of the Whidbey News-Times and the South Whidbey Record.
Originally from Coos Bay, Oregon, Benner began his newspaper career in 2013 at his hometown paper, The World, where he served as advertising director and general manager. He also served as regional advertising director for Mid-Valley Media Group in Albany, Oregon, which is owned by the same parent company, Lee Enterprises.
“I am thrilled RJ chose to join our talented team at the Whidbey News Group. He is a tremendous leader and truly understands the deep connection between our business and the communities we serve,” said Terry Ward, vice president of Sound Publishing.
“I am confident in RJ’s ability to continue building the legacy of these quality newspapers and websites,” he added.
Benner said he has always been passionate about local news and understands the role local media play in keeping an informed public.
“Our role in the community is as important as ever,” he said. “In today’s climate, echo chambers and feedback loops can easily distort truth. Our responsibility to our citizens is to be a beacon, a trusted source of information and a voice. I look forward to serving an active role in doing just that.”
Benner also believes accessibility is the key to success for local media.
“I am very excited to get to know members of the community,” he said. “From our subscribers and readers to community decision makers, I will always prioritize my availability to discuss our editorial positions, direction and goals.”
Benner plans on writing a regular column and holding a “coffee with the publisher” opportunity every month.
Before moving to Whidbey Island, Benner served as an officer of the Coos Bay Lions Club, a board member of the Bay Area Chamber political action team, a founding board member of Travel Southern Oregon Coast and board member of Fort Smith Education Committee that oversees the Junior Leadership Academy. He said he looks forward to serving an active role in local service groups here as well.
Benner and his wife of 21 years, Cassandra, have two children. One is an adult and the other is entering second grade.