Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Waters family selling Columbia Daily Tribune, a well-known community paper, to GateHouse

Columbia, Missouri, has long been known among journalists as the best-covered small city in America, since it has the daily Columbia Missourian of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the Columbia Daily Tribune, owned for 111 years by the local Walters family. Now the Tribune has been sold to GateHouse Media Inc., a burgeoning chain backed by venture capital.

"GateHouse Media is owned by New Media Investments Inc. and operates 125 daily newspapers across the country," Rudi Keller wrote for the Tribune. "Overall, the company owns 620 publications in 520 markets in 35 states. Its 14 daily newspapers in Missouri include the Boonville Daily News, the Mexico Ledger and the Moberly Monitor-Index." All are in towns smaller than Columbia, population 119,000.

Andy Waters
Jason Taylor, president of GateHouse's Western Division, said the paper's 200 employees, except Publisher Vickie Russell and company President Andy Waters, will keep their jobs during the transition. "An interim publisher will be named on the day the sale closes," on or about Oct. 1, Keller reported. Russell's husband and Waters' father, Hank Waters, "will continue to write daily editorials as he has since taking over from his father on May 25, 1966," Keller wrote, quoting Waters: “It is probably a world record. I don’t know if it is something that anyone should aspire to.”

Andy Waters and his sister, Elizabeth Reifert, bought out their four siblings in 2011. Waters and Russell said in an interview that after years of spurning offers, the cost of maintaining a modern news operation made independent ownership impossible. “Bigger companies can absorb research and development, for example, and spread costs out across the entire company while we were constantly being challenged to do that by ourselves,” Russell said.

For GateHouse, the purchase is "part of an aggressive acquisition strategy it has pursued since emerging from bankruptcy in 2014," Keller notes. "On July 28, New Media reported second quarter net income of $9.4 million, the purchase of Journal Multimedia, a Pennsylvania company, for $18 million and an agreement to buy Fayetteville Publishing Co., owner of North Carolina’s oldest newspaper, also for $18 million. . . . While New Media overall is profitable, GateHouse is not."

GateHouse wants to maintain the Waters family traditions, Taylor said: “We owe it to them to shepherd this business for decades to come.” Andy Waters said that was important to the family. “They have told us over and over again, and we believe, that they have a plan for being successful in the future and that plan includes doing quality journalism, having a commitment to the employees here and a commitment to the community, and we expect that to continue.”

No comments: