Don and Debbie Johnson, founders and publishers of the Santa Paula (Calif.) Times, have sold the publication to long-time reporter and editor Peggy Kelly.
The sale, effective Feb. 15, ends a 25-year run for the Johnson’s, who founded the twice-weekly Times after the Santa Paula Daily Chronicle closed in 1992. Kelly began working as a reporter at the newspaper in January 1993 and has been editor in recent years.
Kelly’s journalism career started when she was a high school freshman writing for the defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner. She remembers well closing of the 105-year-old Santa Paula Daily Chronicle in 1992 and its impact on the community. The Johnsons filled the void by starting the Santa Paula Times a few days after the Chronicle closed.
Kelly said, “Terrible things happen in communities that don’t have a newspaper. It’s the watchdog.” She speaks for community newspaper publishers throughout California when she describes the Times as “The only newspaper in the world that really gives a damn about Santa Paula.”
The Times is published twice weekly with Wednesday’s edition providing total market distribution throughout the city with a 7,000 press run. The Friday edition is paid circulation with a press run of 1,200, distributed to subscribers and through 17 vendors.
The Johnsons were honored at the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce awards banquet March 8. With 250 attending, they received the Dr. Sam Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award for their community engagement and activism, as well as keeping Santa Paulans informed through their newspaper. Santa Paula Mayor Ginger Gherardi referred to the Johnsons as “an institution in Santa Paula. He further said: “I think having a newspaper in Santa Paula is critical. It makes a community. It’s the pulse of the community.” Don’s cancer diagnosis three years ago prompted the Johnsons’ decision to sell.
Dave Gauger with Gauger Media Service, Inc., and Ken Amundson with Grimes, McGovern & Associates, newspaper brokerage and consulting firms represented the Johnsons.