R. Michael Couch, former publisher of FN and VP at Fairchild Publications, died July 9 after a battle with dementia. He was 79.
Couch, who joined FN in the late ‘70s, held a range of positions at the company. He launched his career as the New England sales representative, later moving to the company’s headquarters in New York as national sales manager.
The executive was known for his easy-going manner, yet strict business code, earning the respect and friendship of industry insiders.
“Even though we often butted heads from the two sides of the editorial/advertising aisle, I never stopped learning from, or liking, him all the years I was at the newspaper and magazine,” said Nancy Jaslow Bader, former editor of FN, who held the post from 1978 to 1983.. “He loved what he did, the people with whom he did it, and the industry as a whole. He was a good friend, teacher and professional, and both the publishing and footwear industries came out better for his being a part of them.”
Like Bader, Ed Nardoza, the former FN editor who later took on the role of editor-in-chief of sister publication WWD, also recalled Couch’s professionalism and commitment to balancing business with editorial integrity when they worked together in the ’80s. “Given the natural tensions in those days between editorial independence and advertiser interests, Mike handled each and every conflict with complete respect for his editors and for our readers. This formula helped create one of the most singularly profitable publications not only at the Fairchild division, but within our parent company at the time, Capital Cities/ABC,” Nardoza said.
Couch also navigated the industry with ease as well as authority. “He thrived at a time when the business was highly personal and a successful publisher needed to build first-name-basis relationships with every major player in the industry,” said Nardoza. “Mike had that gift. He was the kind of publisher editors loved to work with and for.”
“Mike Couch was what journalists know as a good publisher — one who stood up for reporters who wrote controversial or otherwise hard-hitting stories if advertisers or others subsequently griped or threatened to pull business,” recalled Valerie Seckler, managing editor from 1987 to 1994. “When Mike published FN, the media enterprise based in a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine became one of Fairchild Publications’ most profitable of about 30 unique media entities.”
Dick Silverman, former FN executive editor and associate publisher and associate editor of WWD, added: “After working many years at FN and attending footwear trade shows throughout the world, Mike Couch lived and breathed the shoe industry. It was in his blood and even after moving on he still always remained in contact with his many close friends in the shoe and leather business.”
He is survived by his wife Maile Hulihan, four children and seven grandchildren, along with his brother.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to www.LBDA.org.