Matt Walsh, editor and CEO of Observer Media Group, publisher of the Business Observer, has been inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame, run by the Florida Press Association.
Walsh, a career-long newspaperman; his wife, Lisa; his in-laws, David and Ruth Beliles; and a group of investors became newspaper entrepreneurs in 1995, when they purchased the Longboat Observer. David Beliles had recently retired from a 42-year newspaper career, and Lisa, too, worked in newspapers like her father and grandfather. The family is now in newspaper generation four: Emily Walsh, one of three Walsh children, is the publisher of four of the publications, including the Longboat Observer.
From starting with the Longboat Observer, Observer Media Group, based in Sarasota, is one of the largest family-owned and operated community media companies in the state. The company has more than 125 employees, with papers and websites in the Sarasota area, outside Orlando, in Palm Coast and in Jacksonville. Matt Walsh launched the Business Observer in 1997 in Sarasota. The paper expanded to Tampa in 2001 and Fort Myers-Naples in 2005.
Prior to Observer Media Group, the Walshes — they met at the University of Missouri's journalism school — worked at several publications nationwide. Early on, that took the young couple to Brookings, S.D., at the Daily Register. When a snowdrift hit the second floor of their townhouse, Lisa Walsh decided it was time to move to Florida.
Matt Walsh then held three newspaper leadership roles in the Sunshine State:
• An editor on the business desk at the Miami Herald in the early 1980s, during the South Florida crime wave. He worked with Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen, among many other characters;
• Editor of Florida Trend Magazine, based in St. Petersburg. It was at Florida Trend, Walsh said in a speech after his induction, where he met business owners and CEOs statewide and developed a passion for the entrepreneurs that drive the state’s economy; and
• Southeast Bureau Manager of Forbes Magazine, where Walsh worked remotely out of their garage in St. Petersburg.