Sunday, December 04, 2022

Iowa's Wagner family buys weeklies in Carroll and Jefferson

Myrna, Jeff and Sam Wagner of Iowa Information
Owners of Iowa's Carroll Times Herald, which Agriculture Secretary and former governor Tom Vilsack once called rural America's best newspaper, have sold it and The Jefferson Herald to another often-honored newspaper family in the state.

The Wilson and Burns families, who published the paper for 93 years, sold it to Iowa Information, owned by the Wagner family of Sheldon, best known for its flagship, The N’West Iowa Review

"The Wagner and Wilson/Burns families have been colleagues and friendly competitors at decades of statewide  Iowa Newspaper Association and multi-state awards ceremonies," the papers said. "Both the Sheldon and Carroll newspapers have earned Iowa Newspaper of the Year honors," the Carroll paper in 2013 and the Review 17 times. "Another reason for the decision by both families is the Wagners are positioning a third generation for a future in the newspaper business," with Jeff and Myrna's son Sam.

Doug Burns interviewing candidate Barack Obama
“This is an outcome with enormous opportunity for the Carroll and Jefferson areas and the Wagner family,” said Douglas Burns, co-owner and Herald Publishing's vice president for news. “The newspapers remain under family ownership, and moreover, Iowa-based family ownership. Readers and advertisers can expect the continued commitment to journalism and local economic development we strived to deliver since my grandfather arrived here in Carroll in 1929. It also extends the tradition of community leadership through two generations of the Morain family, the previous owners of the Jefferson papers.”

Burns, marketing vice president Tim Burns and their mother, Publisher Ann Wilson, will stay on for a short time as consultants. "The staffs in both Carroll and Jefferson will stay largely in place. . . . Printing of the publications will remain at White Wolf Web in Sheldon," a sister firm of Iowa Information that prints more than 145 newspaper titles a week, the story says.

Carroll and Sheldon are in western Iowa. (Google map)
Iowa Information President Jeff Wagner said, “We’ve always admired the communities of Carroll and Jefferson and the papers in these markets, so we are excited about the opportunity to be part of their vibrancy.” He noted that he and Doug Burns have worked closely on several initiatives over 25 years, and Burns and Wagner’s late brother, Jay Wagner, award-winning journalist were close friends.

When Vilsack called the Times Herald the best rural newspaper in the United States, early in the Obama administration, it was a daily. During the pandemic it started printing twice weekly. Wagner and Burns "acknowledged the newspaper industry is seeing dramatic changes like a lot of industries, but they are optimistic about its future. “I can’t begin to tell you what a better arrangement this is than having the newspapers in the hands out out-of-state chains or hedge funds,” Burns said. Iowa Information has 10 publications. 

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