Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Two rural weeklies in California's wine country being saved with purchase by a public benefit corporation

Recent editions of the Calistoga Tribune and the Yountville Sun, with an early edition of Calistoga's first paper, founded in 1877. A Tribune story notes the end of another paper, which was published by the daily paper in the county seat of Napa. 

Two weekly newspapers in Napa County, California, have been saved from likely closure by a public-benefit corporation after a community effort to keep them going.

The 20-year-old Calistoga Tribune announced in August that it would be closing, and "at about the same time," the 24-year-old Yountville Sun announced that it was for sale, the Napa Valley Register reports. "In September, the Tribune announced it would continue in its current form, at least until the end of of year, while its owners figured out the paper’s future. The pivot came after a community effort to save the paper emerged, and the owners received several offers to acquire it. ...

"Calistoga native and former Santa Rosa Press Democrat senior editor Paul Ingalls, who’s been involved in efforts to save the Tribune since August, said that, with the deal, many of the functions that go into operating the two papers could be centralized." Ingalls said a local board of directors chaired by Marc Hand of Yountville would run the public benefit corporation, Highway 29 Publishing.

Cheryl Sarfaty of the North Bay Business Journal reports, "Highway 29 Publishing will be set up as a public benefit corporation rather than a nonprofit, Hand said. A public benefit corporation allows owners to make a profit while furthering the public interest." PBCs are "created to generate social and public good, and to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner," says the Cornell University law school.

Wikipedia map, adapted
Hand is a co-founder and board chair of the National Trust for Local News, "a nonprofit formed in 2021 that aims to support community news and keep ownership of those outlets in local hands," the Register reports. "The National Trust last year partnered with the journalist-owned Colorado Sun to purchase 24 weekly and monthly newspapers in the Denver area and run them under the Colorado News Conservancy, also a public benefit corporation."

Calistoga, pop. 5,266, and Yountville, pop. 2,984, are the smallest incorporated towns in Napa County, which has 138,000 people and is known for its wines. The Register is based in Napa, pop. 78,509, and publishes papers for St. Helena, pop. 5,939, and American Canyon, pop. 19,873.

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