Wilson retires from Telegram

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Mark Wilson, right, publisher of the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Tarboro Weekly, receives a hug from Rocky Mount Telegram Administrative Assistant Gwen Davis on Friday during his retirement celebration at the Rocky Mount Telegram.


Staff Writer

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mark Wilson, the Rocky Mount Telegram's publisher for the past five years, has retired.

The 67-year-old newspaperman guided his staff through a devastating hurricane, the creation of an offshoot weekly publication and the startup of a successful magazine. He's hoping for a less hectic retirement.

When asked what he planned to do next, Wilson said with a smile, “not a damn thing,” before amending his answer to say he will take some time with his wife, Becki, to visit family, mostly in North Carolina.

He deserves the break, but his Telegram family will be the lesser for his absence, said John Kent Cooke Jr., president of Cooke Communications in North Carolina, which owns the Telegram, The Daily Reflector in Greenville, The Daily Advance in Elizabeith City, The Tarboro Weekly and several other non-daily newspapers in Eastern North Carolina.

“We’ll all miss working with him, and hope he’s a frequent visitor to our offices,” Cooke said.

Wilson will be succeeded by Kyle Stephens, who begins his stint as publisher of the Telegram on Monday.

A celebration send-off party was held for Wilson on Friday at the newspaper’s office on Hunter Hill Road.

Wilson became publisher of the Telegram on Aug. 1, 2013, with the retirement of former Publisher Rip Woodin.

“Mark’s been a great asset to the company for many years and has done a fine job leading the Telegram since becoming publisher, and the Telegram’s advertising department beforehand,” Cooke said.

When asked about his greatest achievement as the Telegram’s publisher, Wilson said he’s proud of bringing together both sides of the newspaper’s publishing house.

“I tried to unite the editorial and advertising sides into one unit,” Wilson said, adding that reporters and salespeople don't get along all the time at a lot of newspapers.

Wilson said he strove to maintain an inclusive work environment where employees could talk in the open and make decisions together.

When The Daily Southerner's 125-year run came to an end in 2014, Wilson stepped up to create a weekly newspaper to fill the coverage gap for Tarboro residents. The award-winning Tarboro Weekly was born.

Two years later, when Hurricane Matthew tore through the Twin Counties in October 2016, Wilson supervised award-winning reporting of the storm, its aftermath and recovery. Whether it was runaway weather or city council coverage, Wilson always emphasized the importance of local, community-centric news.

That same year, a busy one for the Telegram, Wilson greenlighted a quarterly magazine focusing on the growing micro-brewing industry in Rocky Mount. Carolina Brew Scene has been a hit with both malt makers and beer aficionados alike. The award-winning, financially successful publication has found its niche covering beer lovers in Eastern North Carolina.

An active leader in the Rocky Mount community, Wilson serves on the board of directors for Carolinas Gateway Partnership, a public-private industrial recruitment agency dedicated to economic development in the Twin Counties. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Campbell University.

His four-decade-long career in newspapers includes positions at The News & Observer in Raleigh; Zebulon; Florence, S.C.; and Suffolk, Va.

With family ties in Nash County, Wilson moved to the area in 2008 when he became director of sales and marketing for the Telegram after a year as interim leader of the department.

Before taking charge of sales at the Telegram, Wilson was the chief operating officer for Cox Enterprises’ nine weekly newspapers in North Carolina. During his four-and-a-half years in that job, Wilson set group ad sales records and pioneered a thriving group of niche publications as a way to grow his rural markets. Cooke Communications purchased the Telegram and Cox’s other print properties in Eastern North Carolina in 2009.