BIRTHDATE: Dec. 19, 1950, Wheeling, W.Va. FAMILY: Husband, Gerry Allen. EDUCATION: B.A., business administration, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla., 1974. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: VP-general manager, Newspaper National Network, New York, late April to present; publisher, Travel Holiday Magazine, 1991-April; senior VP-advertising, USA Today, 1988-91; first corporate advertising manager, USA Today, 1982-84; VP-advertising director, later publisher, USA Weekend, 1985-88; corporate advertising rep, The Washington Post, 1980-82; retail ad sales rep, the Gannett Co.'s Cocoa Today, Cocoa Beach, Fla., 1973-76. HOBBIES: Antique shopping, running, mountain vacation home escapes. HAEGELE EYES PAPERS' NAT'L AD AMBITIONS

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Patricia Haegele likes start-ups and a good challenge. She will get both as the first VP-general manager of the Newspaper National Network.

The arm of the Newspaper Association of America is the industry's long-awaited solution to its woeful lack of national advertising: Newspapers attract only $3.8 billion, just 5%, of the $80.5 billion in national advertising. That accounted for just 12% of newspapers' $31.9 billion in ad revenue during 1993.

"We have nowhere to go but up," Ms. Haegele says of her new assignment.

The NAA thinks in Ms. Haegele it has found the perfect person for the job: someone well-respected on Madison Avenue who knows national advertisers, ad agencies, plus the newspaper and magazine business. She also knows start-ups from being part of the team that rolled out USA Today.

"Nothing is more energizing than a start-up," she says. "I thrive in that environment."

At the Newspaper National Network, Ms. Haegele wants a staff of 12 in place by early July. She plans to set up the one-stop ad buying organization like an ad agency, with a marketing director, creative director and account managers. Each of the six sales staffers will be a category specialist.

"National advertisers are looking for new ways to spend their dollars ... ," she says. "The best thing newspapers have going for them is their penetration and their creme de la creme readers."

Ms. Haegele, 43, was publisher of Reader's Digest Association's Travel Holiday before being lured away by what the Newspaper National Network described as a "substantial" salary with a "significant" results-based incentive program.

The NAA "made me an offer I couldn't refuse," Ms. Haegele says while declining to disclose her pay.

At Travel Holiday, she oversaw a refocus on the seasoned traveler and increased ad sales when competitors were suffering declines. Before that, she spent 18 years in newspaper ad sales, rising to USA Today's senior VP-advertising.

That's pretty impressive for someone who got into the business by accident. Ms. Haegele graduated from college hoping for a human resources career. Instead, she began as a secretary at Cocoa Today, and later moved to advertising.

"She has one of the best reputations of sales executives in the media business," said Nick Cannistraro, NAA senior VP-chief marketing officer. "Her variety of background in all print media is fabulous ... She's known by all the major players."

Ms. Haegele didn't agree to the Newspaper National Network job until satisfied the industry, which dragged its feet for years, was fully behind the plan. The top 50 newspapers pledged $6 million to support the project.

As she moves into her new job, Ms. Haegele and husband Gerry Allen, who spent eight months in a hotel, are moving into a pre-World War II apartment in New York this month. She has been enjoying hunting antiques for their new home.

Ms. Haegele also runs up to 5 miles a day. Last month, she won the women's 3-mile race at the American Association of Advertising Agencies meeting in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. And her idea of an ideal escape: the Camelback Mountains in Pennsylvania.

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