Mike Distelhorst was named publisher of The Fayetteville Observer as parent GateHouse Media consolidated the top posts at its southeastern North Carolina properties.
Distelhorst will continue to serve as group publisher for four of those newspapers: the StarNews in Wilmington, the Jacksonville Daily News, New Bern Sun Journal and Kinston Free Press.
He replaces Bob Gruber, who has been publisher of the Observer since August 2016.
Gruber came to Fayetteville from Wilmington after GateHouse Media purchased the Observer. Lucy Talley, regional vice president of GateHouse Media’s South Atlantic Publishing Group, noted that in Gruber’s four decades in the newspaper business he served as the publisher in Lake City, Florida, and Florence, Alabama, when those newspapers were subsidiaries of The New York Times Company.
“My time at the Observer has been wonderful, Gruber told the newspaper in an article by staff writer Steve DeVane. “The employees are great people dedicated to their craft. I still want to continue working and am not quite ready for retirement. However, I will be searching for a new adventure after proudly working for the newspaper industry over my lifetime.
“It is ironic that my last day in the business will be exactly 40 years to the day of my first start date.
Talley said Gruber’s position is being eliminated.
“Many difficult decisions have been made across the company, regionally and corporately, to enable our company to invest in its future,” she told the Observer. “This change reflects our ongoing efforts to build a sustainable product and revenue model. In order to do that we needed to structurally reduce our cost base.”
Distelhorst was raised in southeast Iowa and previously served in publishing and sales roles in Texas, Colorado and Kansas.
“The Observer has an incredibly rich history in this region and my goal is to continue to be the number one source of news and information for Fayetteville and the entire coverage area,” Distelhorst said.