News Tribune chief executive dies suddenly

David Meadows roamed the newsroom of the Jefferson City News Tribune every few hours during the workday.

A tall man, his long legs seemed to carry him in a few strides as he glided.

But, from time to time, Meadows would stop and chat with reporters, sharing his sense of humor and self-mockery.

For example, reporters always seemed to know it was around lunchtime when they smelled burnt popcorn in his nearby office. He took their ribs with courtesy.

He didn’t seem to have been part of the newsroom long before he left. Meadows, who was 58, died Wednesday night. He is survived by his wife, Dianna, and their two sons, Connor and Garrett.

Nat Lea IV, President and CEO of WEHCO Media, owner of Central Missouri Newspapers Inc., said of Meadows, “David was a great person and a great leader; he will be missed. I was shocked to ‘to learn of his passing. Today, my thoughts are certainly with his family and our colleagues at the Jefferson City operation.”

Mark Lane, President of WEHCO’s Newspaper Division, added Thursday: “Mr. Meadows was an incredible leader who cared deeply about the News Tribune, the Fulton Sun, the California Democrat and every other business associated with Central Missouri Newspaper Company.

“It was an honor for me to have the opportunity to work with such a talented professional,” said Lane. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Meadows family.”

Meadows had served as general manager of the Jefferson City News Tribune (and the Fulton Sun, California Democrat, HER Magazine, and the Central Missouri Newspapers commercial printing press) for approximately 2½ years, after being selected for the position in December 2019, about two months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Many in the newsroom had barely got to know him before they were told to work from home.

When reporters returned to the office in March 2021, he was a constant source of encouragement.

News Tribune editor Gary Castor said Meadows held various positions during his newspaper career. He had been in production, which allowed him to “talk the talk” with newsroom and mailroom staff. However, he also served many years as a publisher/editor and had a clear understanding of news and what it is trying to do.

He had more than 30 years of newspaper experience before coming to Jefferson City, 16 of them as a general manager or publisher.

His most recent position before joining CMNI was as an editor at Paxton Media Group in Russellville, Arkansas. He had worked with Gannett and Morris Communications.

Castor described Meadows as also being an astute businessman, whose career stops gave him broad insights into the industry.

“This man was outstanding. He was a great boss and, frankly, a great friend,” Castor said. “What always struck me was that he had a kindness and gentleness. He listened well. What I appreciated most about him was that he respected what we are trying to do in the newsroom, and he gave us as much support and encouragement as he could.”

Castor said he and Meadows were also related as fathers of young adults who had left the nest or were about to leave.

Meadows was a funny, humble man who lived his faith as a Christian, Castor said.

“He had the ability to speak from the small things in life to the big things in life,” Castor said. “He wanted to get to know the people he worked with beyond what they were doing.”

He wanted to know what their life was like.

Recently, when he saw a new sports reporter, Meadows privately asked Castor to remind him of the young man’s name. He wanted to contact the reporter to get in touch with him.

“He wanted to know the guy. It was just him,” Castor said.

When he joined CMNI, his new team welcomed him as a leader with a solid understanding of the news industry and a passion for the news industry.

He praised the Jefferson City Information Foundation for its community connections and collaborations.

Meadows said he looks forward to reaching out to the community alongside Castor to strengthen those bonds.

Still, Meadows could often be heard laughing with reporters and designers.

During Meadows’ time at the Central Missouri Newspapers, journalist Jeff Haldiman discussed a variety of topics with him — including old rock bands. They bonded with Head East, REO Speedwagon, Styx and other classic 70s rock bands.

Even during the shutdown, Meadows had a positive influence.

“He was a half-full type of guy,” Haldiman said.

Chief photographer Julie Smith, who has an office next to the Meadows office, said she could hear him talking — not singing — talking about REO Speedwagon song lyrics. Meadows would say one line, then Smith would respond with the next line.

He nodded to her and said hello.

Smith said the first time she interacted with Meadows actually happened in 2021 when Smith was recognized for 30 years at the Jefferson City News Tribune. A colleague walked into Smith’s office and strung him up with banners recognizing 30.

“I guess he spent a few days trying to figure out who was 30,” Smith said. “‘I know you’re not 30,’ he told me. I told him I’ve been here 30 years.”

Smith said she constantly forgot to bring a stepladder so she could raise her arms and remove the banners. He just reached out and took them off one day.

Meadows would go to his office and let Julie know he liked a certain photo. And he was “pretty excited” when, in 2021, she was inducted into the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame.

For the first few days after that, he stuck his head in his head and said, “Hall of fame, what does it do?”

Through her personality, Meadows bonded with the newspaper staff. However, he also brought a different sense of leadership to the paper.

Before Meadows arrived, there had been such a long vacuum on the business side, Haldiman said. He added that WEHCO Media realized when it pursued him for the position that Meadows would strengthen the business side, and was thrilled when he arrived in Jefferson City.

When Meadows was hired, Lane said the new general manager really knew what he was doing and could help the WEHCO team.

And he did.

During a News Tribune staff meeting on Thursday afternoon, Lane said Meadows had exceeded expectations and somehow created growth during the pandemic. Lane thought he had swung and missed some previous hires, but Meadows was different.

“I finally made it,” Lane said. ” Is not it ?