It's easy to imagine that moving from New Jersey to Wichita will be jarring for William "Skip" Hidlay.
Considering he is the new publisher of The Wichita Eagle, it's easy to imagine it will be jarring for Wichita, as well.
But to Hidlay, the practice of strong journalism will provide a natural transition.
"I was trying to get out of New Jersey 14 years, but there were these great corruption stories to keep me there." Hidlay (pronounced "HIDE-lee") told the newspaper's staff at a meeting Thursday after he was named to the post by the McClatchy Co.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
His experience investigating that corruption is in keeping with The Eagle's heritage, he said in an interview later.
"The Eagle has always been known nationally as an excellent newspaper, an agenda-setting newspaper that does great journalism in a variety of ways, and now on multiple platforms," he said.
"I am elated to be here."
Hidlay, 51, replaces Pam Siddall, who left the newspaper in January. His first day at The Eagle will be March 15.
Hidlay has been president and publisher of two Gannett Co. newspapers in central New Jersey — the Courier News and the Home News Tribune — since April 2008.
From 2002 to 2008, he was the executive editor and vice president for news at Gannett's Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.
And from 1996 to 2002, he worked as the managing editor and, later, executive editor, of Gannett's Courier-Post newspaper in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Before working in New Jersey, Hidlay, a Pennsylvania native, worked for the Associated Press for 10 years in many locations. Among them was Chicago, where he and his family loved the friendliness and values of the Midwest, he said.
"I'm very much a person who loves to meet new people, loves to experience new cultures,'' he said. "I think that's one of the great things about the United States — we have such a diversity of people and places and cultures.
"This to me is a great opportunity."
Gary Pruitt, McClatchy's chairman and CEO, called Hidlay a dynamic and innovative leader.
"He has embraced the technological and cultural changes sweeping the newspaper industry without sacrificing his passion for and commitment to public service journalism," Pruitt said in a statement.
For the past two years in New Jersey, Hidlay worked on a variety of projects to consolidate the Courier News and Home News Tribune into one operating unit. He merged the news, advertising and circulation departments, created a regional copy desk and launched a series of weekly free-distribution papers.
He also started a common Web site drawing readers from both communities, which are in adjoining counties.
The newspapers' previous, separate Web sites had 4.2 million page views combined in March 2008. Hidlay, who started the job in April, saw page views almost double, to 8.3 million, on the common site by January 2009.
Hidlay twice won Gannett's President's Ring, which is awarded to the company's top 10 editors.
Bob Weil, McClatchy vice president for operations, praised Hidlay's journalism background but also said he had strong business experience and is savvy about the Web and the changing media landscape.
"In so many ways he was really the perfect candidate for this job," Weil said.
Hidlay was born in Bloomsburg, Pa., graduated from Syracuse University and began his newspaper career in 1980 as a reporter for his hometown daily, the Press-Enterprise.
Later he worked as a reporter in North Carolina with the Fayetteville Observer-Times and the Charlotte Observer.
He joined the Associated Press in 1986 and performed reporting, editing and management assignments.
Hidlay said he is passionate about watchdog journalism and storytelling. He also is committed to community service and community leadership.
"Newspapers have a real responsibility to be a force in a community, spotlighting things that need to be fixed, but also championing projects," he said
Hidlay and his wife, Valerie, have five children: Will, 29; Travis, 26; Greg, 22; Nick, 19; and Paige, 13.