Syracuse University Magazine

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Larry Kramer '72

A Newsman's Odyssey in Digital Media

When the Gannett Company invited media industry veteran Larry Kramer to come out of semi-retirement to reinvigorate USA Today as president and publisher in 2012, he jumped at the chance. At the time, with 40 years’ experience encompassing such roles as reporter, editor, digital entrepreneur, venture capitalist, corporate executive, and author, Kramer was serving on several advisory boards and teaching at the Newhouse School. “I was on some great boards and giving advice I felt was valued. I also liked working with students, because they had great questions I could learn from and I could also help them. But it made me hunger a little bit for spending more time running a newsroom. Every once in a while I’d say to myself, ‘Yeah, I think I’ve got one more in me,’” says Kramer, an SU Trustee and chair of the Newhouse Advisory Board. “When the people at Gannett asked if I would come in to modernize USA Today, it was such a cool thing. It was like, ‘How would you like to help save journalism?’ I couldn’t not do it. And it was a blast helping to turn it around these past three years!”

Who better to lead the rejuvenation than Kramer, whose professional path is as storied, complex, and rich with change as journalism itself. For starters, he spent more than 20 years as a reporter and editor, notably at The Washington Post and San Francisco Examiner. Kramer then entered a new phase of his career as an entrepreneur, founding MarketWatch Inc. in 1995 and leading the financial information website until its sale to Dow Jones in 2005. From 2005 through 2007, it was back to media as the first president of CBS Digital Media, where he created a division comprising all new media operations for the network. “I thought after that it would be a great time to retire,” he says.

Well, not quite. Kramer then became a senior advisor to Polaris Venture Partners in 2008. He also wrote C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today (HarperCollins, 2010) before returning to the newspaper business at USA Today. Having accomplished his goals there around the same time he turned 65, he is trying out retirement again, but has transitioned on to the board of directors at Gannett (USA Today’s parent company) and joined the board of financial website TheStreet.com.

“I’ve been in media my whole life, but I’ve had about five different careers,” says Kramer, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science at SU and an MBA degree at Harvard. With his roots in traditional journalism and expertise as a digital entrepreneur, he became the “perfect guy” to guide companies transitioning between the two worlds. “New media—interpreting journalism in these new and different storytelling platforms—is really fun for me,” he says.

One constant for Kramer has been his relationship with Newhouse and SU. “Throughout my career and my life as a journalist, I’ve felt connected to Syracuse,” says Kramer, a “crazed” Orange sports fan. “Newhouse also meant a lot to me from when I was a student. At every stop I’ve made in the business, I’ve leaned on the people and lessons I’ve learned there.”

He looks forward to helping advance the University, particularly in building relationships between education and business—an agenda that’s especially important as rapid change continues to redefine the media industry. “Journalism still has a heart and soul. It still means something important: fairness; and expectations on the part of the consumer that there’s objectivity. But that gets lost a little in this new world of communications,” says Kramer, who was among 50 leading alumni honored at Newhouse’s “50Forward” gala in New York City in October. “We’re a great journalism school, but we now have to be great at a lot of other things, too.”     —Amy Speach