New team: A. Mark Smith Sr., from left, Josh Lurie, Debbie Lurie-Smith and Matt Smith have joined forces at The Jones County News.

Smith Communications adds Jones Co. News

Smith Communications President and CEO A. Mark Smith Sr. announced the acquisition of The Jones County News Oct. 13, increasing the footprint of its community newspaper division.

The Jones County News has received numerous Georgia Press Association awards, including second place in General Excellent earlier this year.

The newspaper was owned by Josh Lurie and Debbie Lurie-Smith for 11 years. Both are staying involved in the business.

Lurie said keeping community journalism alive is imperative.

“This move is the best way to secure the future of The Jones County News and its role as a watchdog for our community,” he said. “The readers will notice little change, except for growth.”

Lurie said the advertising sales effort, which provides about 85 percent of a newspaper’s revenue, will provide financial stability for the future and more opportunities to tell the community’s story.

“Joining Smith communications is a natural fit for us,” he said. “I’ve worked with the Smith family for several years, helping to grow and improve their products. We’re just making it official.”

Lurie accepted the position of executive editor over all four newspapers – The Eatonton Messenger, Lake Oconee News, The Jones County News and The Baldwin Bulletin.

The Bulletin was just acquired in July.

Managing editor and former co-owner Debbie Lurie-Smith will stay in her position as an award-winning journalist who attends nearly all government meetings and stays in touch with law enforcement on issues affecting the community every day.

Lurie-Smith says she looks forward to the future.

“I’m proud to join Mark Smith and his staff of highly respected journalists,” she said. “The future is bright for The Jones County News, and I plan to be a part of it for many years to come.”

Smith Communications President and CEO A. Mark Smith Sr. represents the fifth generation of newspaper ownership in his family. His sons, Mark Jr. and Matt, make that six generations.

The family has lived in the Lake Country since purchasing The Eatonton Messenger in 1956.

“I am pleased The Jones County News and Jones Living magazine will be joining our company,” he said. “Josh Lurie and Debbie Lurie-Smith and their staff have done a great job developing these award-winning publications. Their dedicated staff will be a tremendous help as we further grow our company.”

Smith’s son, Matt Smith, has been named general manager of the The Jones County News, bringing his expertise in circulation and distribution and offering support where needed. He has been the general manager of The Bulletin since it was purchased.

Mark Smith Jr. is the vice president of advertising for Smith Communications and is the general manager of The Eatonton Messenger and Lake Oconee News.

— Smith Communications

Watch webinar on public notices to make them more visible than ever

Georgia Press Association and the Public Notice Resource Center have teamed up for a presentation to help newspapers make their public notices stand out.

At a time when state legislatures all across the U.S. are looking at how public notices are best delivered and seen, this set of best practices can help your newspaper’s public notices reach even more readers.

If you weren’t able to see this webinar live on Oct. 5, GPA members may contact Sean Ireland for access to the recorded presentation “What Newspapers Must Do to Keep Public Notices.”

We all know that newspaper publication in print and online provides the independent, verifiable and archivable system of public notices that has served the nation well for decades. GPA research shows that citizens want and expect to read public notices in newspapers, and that publication on government or third-party websites would reduce access to them.

In this webinar, Richard Karpel, PNRC president, offers tips and best practices that newspapers can use to help ensure that newspaper publication of notices continues and that they are even more visible and useful to the people in their communities.

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

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.