INA executive director resigns; to accept new role with Gannett

Brian Cooper

Susan Patterson Plank, Iowa Newspaper Association executive director since 2016, has resigned, effective Sept. 1, and will rejoin Gannett Co., Inc.

Patterson Plank, 58, who joined INA in 2013 as sales and marketing director, will become Gannett’s vice president of public records strategic initiatives, a newly established position. This will be her third stint with Gannett newspapers. She previously worked for the company in 1989–1998 and 2001–2013, at The Des Moines Register (twice) and in Indiana and Minnesota.

Patterson Plank, who will continue to live in the Des Moines area, said all details of her first-time position are yet to be finalized. However, a key responsibility will be to work collaboratively with press associations around the country and champion new initiatives and approaches to public notices.

Gannett also owns the Ames Tribune and Iowa City Press-Citizen, USA TODAY hundreds of local media outlets in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

“Susan has been an exceptional leader and a tireless advocate for the INA, our members and our industry,” said Debbie Anselm, INA board president. “She has certainly left an indelible mark on the Association. We wish her all the best in her next endeavor.”

A 1988 psychology graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Patterson Plank was selling shoes in Muscatine, her hometown, when in March 1989 she landed the job of promotion coordinator of the Muscatine Journal. She joined The Register and Gannett late that same year.

While crediting INA staff and members for their hard work and support, Patterson Plank mentioned a few highlights of her tenure, including meeting and beating budget targets while ending the organization’s reliance on investment income, preserving public notices for Iowa newspapers, divesting of the INA building and growing INA partnerships with other press associations.

“Susan was as talented as a Ringling Bros. juggler. That’s great, because she was constantly juggling an array of tasks with amazing skill,” said Randy Evans, a retired Register editor and current president of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation board. “Advertising sales, Postal Service changes, convention program ideas, public notice snags, FOI concerns, budget headaches, the Legislature, the pandemic. Amidst all of that, she always had time to talk with editors and publishers about matters at the top of their minds.”

Patterson Plank is just the third executive director in the 40-year history of the Iowa Newspaper Association, following Bill Monroe (1983–2009) and his wife, Chris Mudge (2009–2016). The INA formed Jan. 1, 1983, when the Iowa Press Association and Iowa Daily Press Association merged.

Anselm said the process of hiring the next INA executive director is underway with the formation of a search committee, which be head by Terry Christensen, past president of the INA board.

Patterson Plank, who has offered to assist association leaders in the hiring process, stated in her resignation letter, “It has been a great joy to serve this organization.”

Cooper, retired executive editor of the Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, is currently writing a history of the INA and its predecessor organizations.