A longtime Lawrence media executive who has helped oversee the growth of the Journal-World and its parent company is retiring after a 43-year career with The World Company.
Ralph Gage, 71, The World Company's director of special projects and its former chief operating officer, is retiring from a day-to-day role with the company today.
"What I have told everybody who will listen is that it is time for the next generation of people to have the kind of opportunities I have had," Gage said. "It is time for the next generation to do the heavy lifting."
Gage on Tuesday was praised by Journal-World executives and community members as a driving force behind the media company's success and expansion over the past four decades.
"Really, he has played a major role in nearly everything good that has happened to the paper," said Dolph C. Simons Jr., chairman of The World Company. "Personally, he has been an extremely close friend and business associate. I have valued his judgment and appreciated his honesty and ability to get things done."
Gage will continue to serve as a member of The World Company's board of directors, Simons said.
Over his more than four decades with the company, Gage has held titles including managing editor, general manager and chief operating officer. Gage also was responsible for oversight of WorldWest LLC, a corporate subsidiary that at various times owned newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
During his tenure, he was involved in overseeing the creation and growth of Sunflower Broadband, the cable company formerly owned by The World Company, as well as Columbine Cablevision in Fort Collins, Colo. Gage also was instrumental in negotiating an agreement with Gannett Co. Inc. to print and distribute USA Today regionally from the Journal-World's production plant in downtown Lawrence, Simons said.
"The Simons family and World Company employees will greatly miss Ralph's wise counsel and daily dedication to excellence," said Dolph C. Simons III, president of The World Company's newspaper division.
Dan Simons, president of The World Company's electronics division, said Gage's experiences at the company ranged from leading the effort to convert the newspaper from an afternoon to a morning publication to serving as reporter for the paper in his earlier years with the company.
"For 43 years he has been the go-to person," Dan Simons said. "You just knew that if Ralph was running the situation, it would be done with excellence."
Jerry Cooley, who worked with Gage for many years as a Lawrence attorney who represented The World Company, said Gage had a reputation as a manager with an eye for detail.
"Any company should be proud to have a man like Ralph running its day-to-day operations," Cooley said. "He was there to make sure things ran smoothly, and when they didn't, he was there to make them run smoothly again."
Susanne Shaw, a journalism professor at Kansas University, said a hallmark of Gage's management style was his ability to cut to the chase of the discussion on nearly any topic.
"He didn't tell you what you wanted to hear, but he told you what you needed to hear, and that's very important for an organization," Shaw said.
Gage came to the Journal-World in October of 1969 after serving as a reporter with the Metro-East Journal in East St. Louis, Ill.
"I got away from all the racial strife there just in time for all the campus strife here," Gage said.
He served as a reporter covering KU, and was part of the team that covered the 1970 burning of the Kansas Union and the civil unrest on campus.
Gage said on Tuesday he plans to remain in the Lawrence community.
"I have enjoyed the community and the people I have worked with," Gage said. "What I really would like to say is that the community is quite fortunate to have the newspaper and its related entities owned by an enlightened and visionary family that cares about the community.
"I think the organization under that leadership and ownership has a bright future."