CHICAGO — Lloyd Case, the former CEO of Forum Communications Co., likely knew more about pipe wrenches than he did about column inches when he first came to work for the media company headquartered in Fargo in 1982.

After stints in the accounting world, including owning his own certified public accounting firm in Carrington, N.D., Case worked as a finance guy for Fargo’s Northern Waterworks, a plumbing supplies manufacturer, before answering an ad in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, the media company’s flagship newspaper, and ultimately becoming the company’s controller.

On Monday, Oct. 7, some 37 years after joining Forum Communications, Case was presented with the Ralph D. Casey/Minnesota Award, one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the Inland Press Association, an industry association that was formed in 1885 to represent family-owned newspaper operations.

The annual award, named in honor of the first director of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications, is intended to honor someone “who is an agenda-setter, bringing about change while exemplifying the finest in journalism and community service.”

Elisia Cohen, director of today’s Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota, who presented the award to Case, said it is also the highest honor bestowed on anyone by the school.

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Case was presented the award during a ceremony at the 2019 joint annual meeting of the Inland Press Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Chicago. On Sunday, Chris Reen, elected to be the first president of the newly formed organization, announced that the new organization is known as America’s Newspapers. Reen is the president and publisher of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Case spent decades as a member of Inland, serving as a board member for both the organization and the organization’s foundation, and ultimately serving as the association’s president for the 2012-2013 term, followed by a one-year term as chairman.

Just a decade after Case joined Forum Communications as its controller in 1982, he was named vice president and CFO in 1992. The company’s board then elected him president in 2006 and CEO in 2010.

By the time he retired as Forum Communication’s top executive at the end of 2013, Case oversaw nine dailies and more than 20 community newspapers — most of which were acquired on his watch. He was also responsible for radio and television stations in North Dakota and Minnesota as well as Forum’s Interactive Digital Media Division in Fargo.

Forum Communications Co. is locally owned by the Marcil family, and is in its fifth generation of ownership. Fourth-generation leader Bill Marcil Sr., who worked alongside Case for several decades, said he is proud of his relationship with Case for the last 40 years. He called Case “an outstanding member of the Fargo-Moorhead community and says that Lloyd has represented the industry with great distinction.”

Other newspaper industry leaders had similar glowing remarks to say about Case.

Matt McMillan, CEO of Press Publications in Minnesota and a former vice president of newspapers for Forum Communications, said Case’s leadership strengthened many local newspapers.

“Lloyd helped build a few newsrooms into dozens of Midwest newspapers,” McMillan said. “This clustering allowed newsrooms to be greater than their individual parts, resulting in award-winning journalism and a more stable business.”

In her remarks before presenting the award to Case, Cohen said it was quite an achievement growing Forum Communications from two newspapers to the more than 40 brands it now owns.

And she added, that doing so during the recession of 2009 was “distinctive.” She added that Case “didn’t look at the recession as a challenge — but as an opportunity.”

Finally, Cohen said, that Case believes that owning newspapers starts with public trust.

“He says, ‘Local papers are sometimes the only things you can trust to hold leaders accountable in your community,’” Cohen said.

Case said he was humbled for receiving the industry award.

“This award means a lot to me. I owe much of my career to the Inland (Press Association),” Case said in his acceptance speech to a full room of industry executives. “You people have a challenge, but as you can see, it can be done. There isn’t anyone else in our communities who can provide the kind of information that we do.”

Nowadays, in addition to serving on Forum Communication Co.’s corporate board, as well as the board of Alerus Financial Corp. based in Grand Forks, Case helps a family member who owns a farm with spring and fall operations. He and his wife, Ellen, also enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and traveling.