There I was Thursday night – sitting on the couch, watching college football and petting my dog (I do that a lot). Then the phone rang. The caller ID showed it was my boss, Dan Sykes, calling from Kentucky.
It must be some final budget detail, I thought, as I answered the phone. We had talked earlier in the week and finalized the Gazette’s 2014 budget.
“I’m calling with either bad news or good news, depending on how you look at it,” he said. “The Gazette has been sold to Journal Inc. in Tupelo. Mike Abernathy (president of Landmark) and I will be there tomorrow to give the news to employees.”
I was shocked. Oh, I knew the day would come. The family that owns Landmark Community Newspapers decided several years ago that they wanted to get out of the newspaper business and sell their 50-plus newspapers. But nothing had come of the plan until the past year when two papers, one in North Carolina and the other in Virginia, were sold.
And the Gazette was a good candidate for a sale because it is relatively far from the company’s other newspapers, making any sort of group synergy or efficiency nearly impossible.
This is the fourth time in my 46 years in the business that the newspaper where I was working has been sold. Only one of those times did I lose my job because of the sale. In that instance, the new owner decided to replace all the top managers of a very successful paper even before meeting them.
But being sold is still a surprise, and somewhat disconcerting when it happens. And Dan is right that it is either bad news or good news, depending on how you look at it.
For me, the bad news was that leaving Landmark meant leaving a company of good people, many of whom I’ve come to call friends. When I was hired in May 2009, they told me to just use common sense and do the right thing for the Gazette and the community.
The good news is that the folks who run Journal Inc. seem to share those same basic beliefs and they are bullish on the future of community newspapers. Because they are located in the northeast Mississippi region, they offer opportunities to share resources and equipment.
The company doesn’t want to get out of the newspaper business. In fact, it has been adding newspapers, not shedding them, and recently invested in a high-quality press to improve print quality in its products.
So what is the immediate impact on you as a reader or advertiser? Not much, really. The paper you are reading today was produced by the same people, working for Journal Inc., as last Friday’s paper was, when we were working for Landmark. We’ll publish each Wednesday and Friday, just as we have for a long time.
Over time, some changes inevitably will come. The only constant in life and in business is change. But our new ownership helps us with resources to improve the paper, as well as to maintain the market leadership the Gazette has enjoyed as your local paper for more than a century.
T. Wayne Mitchell, Gazette publisher, can be reached 662-534-6321.