DorobekInsider: Leadership changes at Government Executive – Dunie takes the reins, Vito shifts to strategy

Wednesday - 7/8/2009, 11:21am EDT

Curiously timed for the pre-Fourth of July week — and a week when the DorobekInsider was out of town — the Government Executive Media Group announced that long time president and group publisher, Steve Vito, is shifting to from his operational rule to a morestrategic one. His new title, effective immediately, is executive director for strategic development.

From the release:

In this new role, Mr. Vito will work closely with Matt Dunie, who will assume the title of President, in strategic planning and business development of Government Executive Media Group.

I should note that I spoke to Steve Vito and he says he is just fine, thank you very much, and he had nothing but positive things to say about Atlantic Media, Government Executive, and the team. And he stressed that the changes are his decision.

That being said, it seems to be somewhat significant change and has many people peering into the tea leaves.

As the DorobekInsider told you earlier, Dunie joined Government Executive in April — and, as I reported even then, many people were surprised that Vito was reporting to Dunie. That has nothing to do with Dunie. Most people don’t really know him — and that is the point. Vito is well know — and very well respected — in the government market. Speaking personally, I am a huge Vito fan — and I think he has been an elegant leader in a very difficult time for media –particularly for print. And a very interesting time in the government trade press market.

Vito has led Government Executive when 1105 Media’s Federal Computer Week purchased Government Computer News. It was a merger that, in our world, was — and maybe still is — of epic proportions. Government Executive was suddenly a underdog. But in some ways, Government Executive has actually flourished. Vito gets some of the credit, but the forces of the market have also been a significant player. In the end, markets tend to like competition.

But Vito has also made some keen decisions. A key one was to reduce the focus — and dependency — on print, and, by extension, increase theorganization’s online focus. Government Executive has wisely reduced its print frequency — Government Executive magazine is now essentially a monthly — but the group hassignificantly stepped up its online coverage both on GovExec.com, but Vito also hired former FCW editor in chief Allan Holmes to create NextGov.com, to focus on government IT. (When I was at FCW, we were often frustrating that Government Executive magazine would have IT advertisers when, at the time, they didn’t even have a technology reporter.)NextGov has certainly evolved over time, and there still aren’t nearly the cross connections between the GovExec and NextGov Web sites, but NextGov is undoubetedly a player. I don’t know if it is profitable, but… it’s a player.

Another key move: Hiring Bob Brewin. A few years ago, Vito hired Brewin from FCW — from me! Brewin had been FCW’s long-time DOD reporter and was famous — perhaps infamous — for his Intercepts column. Brewin now pens NextGov’s What’s Brewin ‘don’t call it a blog’ blog. (An inside joke — Brewin is adamant that he isn’t a blogger. I keep arguing that if it reads like a blog…) Like him or dislike him — and there are many on both sides of that equation — Brewin is a joy to read and it was a great hire. And I hear he gets great traffic even despite that NextGov still doesn’t highlight him enough.

So this move leaves many people reading the tea leaves of these moves by David Bradley, the chairman of Atlantic Media Company, which owns Government Executive. Bradley, of course, is extremely influential and is widely regarded as one of the smartest publishers around. As I mentioned earlier, there had been word that Bradley had been trying to sell Government Executive. It is unclear if that is still the plan. Insiders tell me Bradley has said he isn’t looking to sell Government Executive. And, of course, if he were to sell it, are there buyers? We are still awaiting the official word onCongressional Quarterly, but, as the DorobekInsider reported earlier, we hear that final details are being worked out on the sale of Congressional Quarterly to the Economist Group. But observers believe that there the Economist Group was essentially the only real bidder… and that CQ sold for less then expected. We will probably never know the specifics, but… Many publishers — even giants like IDG, the publisher of Computerworld, CIO magazine and other publications — are still struggling right now.

Tags: press