McNeely, who will replace Jerome Wassmann on Jan. 30, comes to Jasper after more than seven years as publisher of the Commonwealth Journal, an 8,500-circulation daily newspaper that publishes every day but Monday in Somerset, Ky. He also served as group publisher of sister weekly newspapers in nearby Whitley City and Monticello.
While in Somerset, he converted the daily newspaper from afternoon to morning delivery, launched a monthly glossy health magazine for the regional medical community, published bi-annual glossy Chamber magazines and launched digital supplements to the online newspaper including an e-edition and Facebook page.
“For the past decade we in the newspaper business have been writing our own obituary based solely on declining print circulation. However, we reach more people today than ever before through our tangible and credible printed newspaper circulation and its measurable on-line readership,” said the 26-year newspaper veteran.
McNeely said he understands a newspaper’s role in its community.
“While some may only see the challenges facing our industry, I see opportunity for community newspapers. Your family, friends and neighbors are the heart and soul of the Daily Mountain Eagle. I am excited to join an experienced staff committed to providing quality community journalism, value-based marketing plans for our business community and most important, top-shelf customer service,” he said.
McNeely also served as publisher of the Morehead News Group in northeast Kentucky from 1999-2003 and led the daily Times-Recorder in Americus, Ga., from 2003-2004.
All three management stops were with newspapers owned and operated by Montgomery-based Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.
The 45-year-old began his newspaper career in 1986 as a sports writer at his hometown weekly newspaper, the Coal Valley News, in Madison, W.Va. He was hired after completing the photojournalism and public affairs course at the multi-branch Defense Information School then based at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Ind. He received his BA degree from Bluefield (W.Va.) State College in 1992.
However, he attributes much of his newspaper success to his 14-year career as a public affairs specialist with the West Virginia Army National Guard from 1985-1999. As a guardsman, he was able to travel the globe covering Guard projects in Okinawa, Paraguay and Panama. His military career also featured a 10-month active duty peacekeeping deployment as a mobile public affairs team leader in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998.
In 1990, McNeely was hired as sports editor of the Logan Banner, a daily newspaper in nearby Logan, W.Va. While in the heart of the West Virginia coalfields, he eventually held the editorial responsibilities of news editor, managing editor, editor and general manager before accepting his first publisher position in Morehead, Ky., in late 1999.
McNeely and his wife, Nora, have two daughters, Shaina (Moody), 23, of Apopka, Fla., and Brandi, 16. Nora and Brandi will move to Jasper this summer following the current school term. He enjoys physical fitness and is an avid golfer.
McNeely said he also believes in community involvement. He is past-president of the Somerset Rotary Club and served seven years on the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, including the past two years as a member of its executive committee.