Stocker New Publisher at Riverfront Times

Ready for big push in sales and awareness

Ken Stocker, a 12-year veteran of New Times, had a kind of homecoming when he took the publisher’s position at Riverfront Times in St. Louis three weeks ago.

He was at RFT briefly when New Times bought the paper three years ago from Ray Hartmann and his Hartmann Publishing. Shortly after the purchase, Stocker left St. Louis and took the associate publisher position at New Times’ Westword in Denver.

“When we first bought the paper (Riverfront Times) we were trying to get a feel for it,” he says. Now back at the publication, he’s in much the same position, trying to get a feel for the paper, the town and what he’s going to do as publisher.

With sales that have been stagnant over the past year and a young advertising staff, Stocker’s primary objective is to garner more attention for the paper, he says.

“We want to get our name out there,” he says, “making sure everybody knows who we are again 100 percent.”

Sarah Steele, a marketing maven from Phoenix has been brought to RFT to help raise the paper’s public profile. Part of the push will be to work local charity organizations and sponsor community events. “She’s out there mixing with the best of them,” he says.

As for the somewhat inexperienced sales staff, Stocker says he’s bringing a lot of energy and know-how to the staff.

“We want to make it clear to them they’re going to make some mistakes and that’s OK,” he says.

Stocker is quick to point out that the main cause of slumping sales over the past year has been the general economic fall-out of last fall caused by a recession made worse by the events of Sept. 11.

“I feel the paper was making some headway before that,” he says. “I think we’re poised and ready to make a big push.”

There are no changes in store for the editorial product, though.

“He?s got the ball in hand and doesn’t need me up there bothering him,” Stocker says of Editor Jim Nesbitt, who joined the paper in January.

RFT’s former publisher Terry Coe, resigned after nearly 17 years with the paper, Stocker says.

Coe could not be reached for comment.

Seth Wharton is a freelance writer based in New York City.