Shaun O’L. Higgins, longtime sales and marketing director for The Spokesman-Review, announced Tuesday that he’ll retire from the company in early January.
Higgins, 62, who also gave popular economic forecasts for 25 years, plans to stay in Spokane and focus on other business interests, he said.
He started at The Spokesman-Review in 1979 as executive sports editor and became assistant managing editor the next year. He moved to the business side of the operation, with roles in marketing, corporate communications and circulation. In 1988 he accepted his current position, where he has responsibility for the revenue-generating operations of the news company.
He still remembers his reporting and editing days with fondness, he said Tuesday.
Of his career highlights, “no question … it was the newsroom stuff,” he said. That included forming the investigative team that reported on the search for the South Hill rapist, later identified as Kevin Coe. In the days before newsroom computers, the team used index cards to compare traits among reported rapes and broke the story that the crime spree followed a well-used bus route, he said.
But he also enjoyed his transition to the business side of the operation, saying he had more of a desire to write for enjoyment once he stopped reporting and editing. He wrote or co-wrote several books, including two about the Spokane region.
Stacey Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review, said Higgins’ impact on the news company has been “huge.” From his work in the newsroom to devising new marketing techniques that are now used nationally, “I think the hallmark of Shaun has been his remarkable creativity,” Cowles said.
Higgins said the industry’s well-publicized difficulties haven’t affected peoples’ appetite for news.
“I think newspapers have problems, but I think the news business is alive and healthy,” he said. He believes some newspapers – perhaps many – won’t survive, and some ownership groups are threatened. But “I think the future of news is not threatened,” he said.
Many business people are familiar with Higgins through his annual economic forecasts for the Spokane Ad Federation, as well as presentations to many other groups.
The themed Ad Federation events featuring a costumed Higgins were “extremely popular,” said former federation president Bill Robinson, of Robinson Research. “An economic forecast from a local guy is a formula for nobody showing up. The fact that we had to use the biggest rooms of the convention center to house that certainly spoke highly of Shaun.”
Robinson added that the forecasts were “quite specific and fairly accurate,” and Higgins always used his opening remarks to address predictions that didn’t pan out from the previous year.
Higgins has been involved with numerous community, business and industry organizations, including the Spokane Area Economic Development Council, Spokane Symphony Orchestra, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, the International Newspaper Marketing Association, the World Association of Newspapers and the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media.
Cowles said in a news release that he hopes to name Higgins’ successor soon.
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