Gatehouse buys Morris Publishing newspapers

In an announcement that caught Georgia’s newspaper industry by surprise, Morris Publishing Group of Augusta has agreed to sell 79 newspapers to the parent company of GateHouse Media.

New Media Investment Group, a publicly traded media company, is buying the papers and related assets, including Morris Publishing’s six Georgia-based newspapers. Three of them — Athens Banner-Herald, The Augusta Chronicle and Savannah Morning News — are among the state’s largest-circulation daily newspapers.

Other Georgia papers in the sale are the Columbia County News-Times of Evans, Jefferson Reporter/News and Farmer of Louisville, and The Sylvania Telephone. All will now be under the banner of GateHouse Media, based in Pittsford, N.Y., and traded under the symbol NEWM on the New York Stock Exchange.

GateHouse is one of the largest newspaper companies in the country, with more than 130 daily newspapers and more than 500 nondaily publications across the U.S.

“New Media is very excited to welcome the Morris publications and their employees into our company,” said Michael E. Reed, New Media’s president and CEO. “For more than 80 years, the Morris family has built and operated an incredible collection of local media assets. We are honored that the family has chosen us to uphold the rich tradition of journalism and innovation they have established. This transaction will expand our footprint into new states and add some very attractive markets to our local media portfolio. We see strong synergies between our two companies and look forward to the value creation opportunity that will exist as we combine the portfolios.”

The sale was announced Aug. 9. It is expected to finalize Oct. 2.

The publishers of the Georgia newspapers will remain in place, stories about the sale in each publication reported. William S. “Billy” Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications, parent company of Morris Publishing, will remain as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and will oversee editorial-page policy for the three Morris dailies in Georgia. Stephen Wade is president of The Augusta Chronicle. Scot Morrissey is publisher in Athens, and Michael Traynor is publisher in Savannah.

Morris said, “Since 1929, the Morris family has had a great love and passion for journalism and the local communities that they serve. However, every newspaper company in America is battling trends and redirected advertising dollars, so it is necessary for newspapers to be part of a large newspaper group to build and maintain the necessary resources to compete. We are deeply grateful for the many friendships and business relationships we have enjoyed for these many years.”

The Baldwin Bulletin was sold by DuBose Porter, left, and Griffin Lovett, right, to Smith Communications and Matt Smith, second from left, and Mark Smith, third from left.

Smith Communications acquires Baldwin Bulletin

Eatonton-based Smith Communications Inc. has expanded its footprint in Georgia’s Lake Country with the purchase of The Baldwin Bulletin, which was announced July 14 in Milledgeville.

The family owned company publishes The Eatonton Messenger, Lake Oconee News of Greensboro and Messenger Weekend, in addition to a number of magazines.

Griffin Lovett, former publisher, and DuBose Porter, former executive editor, joined A. Mark Smith Sr., president of Smith Communications, for the announcement.

Lovett spoke highly of the community and Smith Communications.

“The Baldwin Bulletin is a great asset for Milledgeville and Baldwin County, and we have certainly enjoyed being a part of this community,” he said.

“We have also seen how the growth along the lake has merged the business in this community toward Putnam County. This sale to Mark Smith and his team is a better fit. They will make certain that The Bulletin remains Milledgeville’s community newspaper.”

Porter said he sees a bright future for The Bulletin under Smith’s leadership.

“Mark Smith and his team understand community journalism, and they will make The Baldwin Bulletin one of Georgia’s best community newspapers. We have certainly enjoyed being a part of Milledgeville and Baldwin County, but the growth north makes this relationship a stronger place for growing this product.

“This talented group understands why a newspaper is so important to the growth and development of our communities, and they will make certain that the partnership with Milledgeville and Baldwin County and the readers of this newspaper will continue to strengthen and grow.”

Smith also announced that his son, Matt, will serve as general manager for The Bulletin. Wil Petty, who has been working for the Lake Oconee News, has been named associate editor.

— Smith Communications

Walton Tribune’s Graham buys Covington News

For the first time in more than three decades, The Covington News has a new owner.
Morris Multimedia Inc. has announced the sale of The Covington News and its related products to Patrick Graham, the owner and publisher of The Walton Tribune, a twice-weekly newspaper in nearby Monroe.
Morris Multimedia Inc. of Savannah, which continues to own a myriad of print and broadcast properties all across the United States, had owned The Covington News since 1986. Graham, a veteran of the newspaper industry in Georgia for nearly a decade, has been the owner of The Tribune since 2014.

Patrick Graham

“Newton County is a tremendous community with a rich history and an even brighter future,” Graham said. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to have the opportunity to build on the solid foundation of service and leadership the Morris family and its company have provided here in Covington for so many years.”

Charles Hill Morris Jr., of Morris Multimedia, said, “I have known Patrick Graham for the last 10 years, since I was a publisher at the News. I have a lot of respect for him and came to know him as an outstanding person and community leader. We could not think of a better leader to continue the tradition of family ownership of the newspaper other than the Graham family.”
David Clemons has been named editor and publisher of The Covington News. Clemons, 36, comes to Newton County after two years as the managing editor of The Walton Tribune. Clemons served as the publisher of The Tribune from 2009-11 and the Times-Journal in Fort Payne, Alabama, from 2011-15.

David Clemons

“I’m excited to get to work with the staff of The Covington News to give this community a great newspaper,” Clemons said. “We’re proud to be the paper with a local presence in Newton County, and our readers and advertisers are going to be impressed with what they see in the coming months and years.”

– The Covington News and The Walton Tribune, Monroe

 

New GPA media kits use survey showing readership reach

A 2016 survey conducted for Georgia Press Association confirmed what most in our industry have long known: Newspapers have a wider reach with Georgia consumers than any other form of media.

That’s not all the readership study proved, of course. The data illustrated that newspapers reach the majority of adults in our state, that Georgians expect and want to read public notices in newspapers, and that consumers use newspapers more than any other source to help them find sales and make buying decisions.

While the conclusions were expected inside the industry, it’s time to make the information known outside it. GPA is taking that step with new media kits touting the readership study data that counter the false narrative about the decline of newspapers.

Scott Buffington, GPA President

“Over the last several months, the GPA staff and board have been developing a reworked, informative media kit for use by our Georgia Newspaper Service team to solicit new business for members,” said GPA President Scott Buffington, co-publisher with Mainstreet Newspapers in Jefferson.

“The results of this survey clearly show the perception that newspapers are a dying industry is dead wrong. It’s vital that both our GNS sales staff and our member newspapers make all our readers and advertisers aware of this information — our competitors certainly won’t use it.”

Request media kits by calling GNS Sales Director David Rigas at 770-454-6776 or emailing drigas@gapress.org.

Making use of this information is a critical step. For too long, newspapers have allowed other media to frame a perception that the industry is failing. There have been difficult times for newspapers, as there have been for all businesses in the last 10 years. As the survey proves however, newspapers remain the leading player when it comes to consumer reach and usage.

“Changing this erroneous thinking about us will be tough and will take time,” Buffington said. “It’s like turning a ship and will take repeated exposure and a variety of means to convince a sometimes skeptical public that newspapers are here to stay.”

The readership study was conducted by American Opinion Research. The survey confirmed that printed newspapers and their websites are the number-one source for local news in Georgia. Two-thirds of all Georgia adults read a printed newspaper or access a newspaper website during an average week — more than 4.7 million people across the state.

The findings are echoed by a survey conducted by National Newspaper Association earlier this year, which found that nationwide, more people prefer newspapers to any other media source for news about their community.