Sammy M. Lopez is publisher of The Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., the largest and most influential newspaper serving the Four Corners region, including readers in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and the massive Navajo Nation. He has led the newspaper since 2004, and the publication is the parent to numerous other niche products and online offerings, including the weekly and highly successful Four Corners Business Journal.
Under his leadership, The Daily Times has become one of the premier news and advertising organizations in the Southwest. Its commercial clout extends throughout the region, as Farmington is the economic hub of the Four Corners. Lopez has capitalized on that during his tenure in the city. Advertising power has steadily grown under his watch at the newspaper and its numerous specialty publications.
The Daily Times newsroom, meanwhile, has gained national acclaim during the past two years, winning industry wide recognition for its work in fighting for diversity and civil rights, and for government accountability and First Amendment freedoms. The newspaper fought one of the premier legal battles in New Mexico during recent years when it sued the city of Farmington for access to important documents regarding the hiring of a powerful city manager. The newspaper won the battle in district court, however the city appealed and the fight continues.
The Daily Times also sought, and won, a state attorney general's opinion against the city for its secrecy in meeting behind closed doors. Lopez led the charge in both legal cases and personally sought the attorney general's assistance to bring about change in the closed-government mind frame of the city.
His newsroom backed him up, providing story after story of secret meetings, withheld documents, and stern commentary to voice the need for reform and better accountability.
Another recent victory scored by the newspaper came when the recently hired city manager was fired, and the mayor immediately shifted gears to call for the next hiring process to be done in open with complete exposure to the public. Although the court case continues, this was a clear sign of victory for open government as a direct result of the newspaper's fight.
In May of 2008 Columbia University in New York recognized the newspaper's editor and its staff for their work in investigating and calling for reform within the Navajo Nation government. The newspaper discovered that as many as 400 people representing the Navajo tribe traveled to Hawaii for an education conference, despite many of them not qualified as educators and traveling on public money. The newspaper's investigation, reporting and strong commentary captured the attention of a powerful U.S. senator and led to a federal investigation by the Department of the Interior inspector general.
Lopez has a long history of newspaper leadership that extends throughout New Mexico. He was the publisher of the Las Cruces Sun News during 2003-2004, and from 1995-2003 he was publisher of the Current-Argus in Carlsbad.
As Publisher of the Las Cruces Sun News he was joined by FOG and filed a suit against the city of Las Cruces for violating the state Open Meetings Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Sun-News and FOG, concluding that a series of private meetings and subsequent actions by the councilors constituted a "rolling" quorum in violation of the Act.
During 1994-1995 he was the publisher and group manager for World West Ltd Liability Co.
He did consulting work for newspapers including The Daily Times during the early 1990s, and he was the regional manager for Raljon Publishing, supervising eight newspapers in three states from 1990-1994. His work included the 235,000-circulation Los Angeles Daily News, where he worked with a specially assembled management team after the earthquake of 1994.
Lopez began his ties to journalism as a photographer at the Valencia County News Bulletin in 1972 and later at the Santa Fe New Mexican in 1974, and during the following years his service included stints at the Valencia County News Bulletin, the De Baca County News, The Taos News, the Deming Headlight and the Ruidoso News.
He has won several awards over the years for his personal advertising and journalism skills. Many of the newspapers where he has served as publisher have won the NMPA General Excellence Award, including The Daily Times in 2004.
On April 4, 2008 he was awarded the William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award by the Foundation for open Government.
He was president of the New Mexico Press Association in 1984. In 1985 he was president of the Taos Rotary Club and he is a Paul Harris fellow. He is currently a member of the San Juan Rotary Club.
Lopez has served as a discussion leader at the American Press Institute in Reston, Va., seven times teaching publishers from across the country.
Lopez and his wife, Kathy, live in Farmington with their daughter, Melinda, where Lopez is an avid golfer and enjoys the outdoors.