For the first time in 70 years, the publisher of the Winters Express is no longer a Wallace. However, he is a member of a well-known publishing family, and one that is well-known to the Express. Taylor Buley, who assumed the role of Express publisher on Jan. 1, is a member of the McNaughton family – as in McNaughton Newspapers, which has been a co-owner of the Express since 1994. The company additionally owns the Davis Enterprise, the Fairfield Daily Republic, the Georgetown Gazette and the Mountain Democrat.
With a background in journalism and a wife, Jacquelyn, who is a McNaughton, it was a natural step for Buley to get involved with the family business.
“She’s the whole reason I’m doing the paper. I love her, I love her family, so I’m doing the paper.”
He explains that his father-in-law, Burt McNaughton, took an interest in Buley’s aspiring journalism career while he was still in college at the University of Pennsylvania, where he started his own newspaper, the Penn Independent, in 2006. Burt McNaughton assisted him with some production issues, and later on when the couple married in 2010. He took the position of Chief Technical Officer for all of the McNaughton Newspapers in 2015.
“I’m in charge of everything that clicks or ticks at McNaughton,” says Buley, who lists the building of digital advertising and digital production as amongst his main duties. “Everything we do is done on a computer and someone has to manage this stuff. I’m responsible for everything that goes wrong on the technical side.”
Some of Buley’s work can already be seen at the Express. He completely redid the Winters Express website (www.wintersexpress.com), and raised it to the same level as the other McNaughton newspapers, and added many features that didn’t exist on the old one, such as an events calendar, a vastly improved editorial content and functional on-site email.
With a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from the University of Pennsylvania as well as a master’s degree in Communication with a focus on journalism from Stanford (2008), as well as internships at the White House (2005) and the Reason Institute (2006), a fellowship at the Wall Street Journal (2007) and paid reporting/editorial positions at Forbes magazine, Buley brings plenty of journalistic experience to the table. However, as he is quickly discovering, the Winters Express is not really the same animal as the Wall Street Journal or Forbes, so he is now experiencing what a small newspaper in a small town is like.
A former resident of New York City, Buley is still adjusting to the “where everybody knows your name” flavor of small town life, and to demonstrate that commitment, he is relocating from Davis to Winters this week. But, he emphasizes, he is already seeing some of the benefits of living in a small town.
“In New York, I had neighbors I didn’t meet for years. In Winters, I know some of my neighbors, and I haven’t even moved in yet.”
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns associated with such immediate familiarity.
“What I’m most excited about and what scares me the most is the fact that everybody knows everybody.”
Buley intends to reinvigorate the Express with his passion for journalism as well as his ideas for technological improvements to make the 134-year-old publication competitive and profitable going forward in an increasingly digital, online world. He is hoping that his success in these areas will set an example for the other McNaughton publications.
“I think we can do things in Winters and can make it the model for the way we run the rest of the papers.”
He explains that improved technology is the key to success, and came to this conclusion while working at Forbes, where he expanded his focus beyond simply print journalism.
“At Forbes, I realized I could do more with technology than I could just by doing journalism. Some people think that journalism is on the decline, but when you look at who and how we are reaching people, we’re doing more of that than we’ve ever done before.
“I joined the technology side (of the newspaper business) originally because as a journalist, I could only do what I could do with my own hands. As a technologist, I could do so much more.”
Bottom line, he says, is that he realized that “things are changing and journalism wasn’t changing with it.”
Bringing print publications into the digital/online/social media world isn’t the first time Buley has found himself on the cutting edge of new ways to communicate.
“I cut my teeth as a blogger when blogging was a new thing.”
With his background, one would expect Buley to have picked a much larger, sexier publication than the Express upon which to focus his talents, however, he says he was drawn in to the small community appeal and says his goal was never to become wealthy.
“I didn’t go into journalism to make money, I went into it to do good. With the changes in technology, I can do more good than ever before.
“The people of Winters deserve a paper that keeps up with the times. As a person in Winters, I’m happy to provide that for myself and my neighbors.”
Although he has many ideas for changing and improving the Express, most of the changes will be more of the “under the hood” nature and may not be noticed by Express readers, such as improved and functional equipment in the office, and a healthier income.
“New computers and new processes will bring some business rigor to a venture that is already successful so it can be as successful as it was in this century and the last century.”
Some things at the Express are already working just fine, he notes: “telling the community story, making enough money to continue and having an impact on the people around us.” He additionally plans to “figure out what people love, and how we can deliver more of that cost-effectively.”
Assuming the role as publisher, Buley is quickly discovering that in a small town, the position is more than merely producing a product, and he is still getting a feel for all that entails. As a very new member of the community, he admits, “I have little context — it’s a town bent on history and honoring those who came before us. I hope I’m able to do right by the people who came before me.”
As for those who follow him, he says, “I think I might be the last publisher. Today, everyone is a publisher. No one needs the Winters Express to have a voice — there’s Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.” However he says a community newspaper still can do something that the internet can’t: pull everything together in one spot for the whole community.
“We’re a one stop shop . We bring all the information together in one spot. I won’t be the guy who decides who does and doesn’t have a voice in the community — the community does that.”
As publisher, Buley says, “I view myself as the emcee for the community… calling attention not to myself but to the people in the community. When someone needs a volunteer, I will find a volunteer. When someone has a bake sale, I want to be the someone who finds them the cookies.
“I want people to look at me and say, ‘That’s the guy I trust to tell me fact from fiction.’ I may not be the most funny guy, and I may take everything too seriously, but I am a damn good journalist.”
As he forges ahead on this new venture in a new town, Buley invites community members to offer their ideas and desires for the Express.
“Have a conversation with me about the things that make the Express special to them and how I can continue that for another 150 years.”