‘Peoria Journal Star’ Reacts to Sale to GateHouse

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By: E&P Staff

Staffers at the Peoria Journal Star learned on Tuesday that it was one of nine Copley dailies included in the big sale to GateHouse Media (see other story on this site). Union members there have been campaigning for weeks to spread the notion that the paper must be sold to a company that believed in quality journalism and a respect for organized labor.

The Journal Star carried a story about the sale on its Web site late Tuesday. It included the following passages.

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Ken Mauser, Journal Star acting publisher, said, “I want to thank the Journal Star employees for continuing to do a great job through the sale process and as we move to new ownership under GateHouse Media.”

News of the acquisition came late Tuesday and analysts who cover the newspaper industry could not be reached.

But Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates Inc., a firm that studies the industry, said he is very familiar with GateHouse and the acquisition should be “a very good thing” for the newspapers and the communities they serve.

“This is not the type of newspaper company that just owns newspapers and milks them for profit. This is a company that is very interested in the livelihood of its people and of the communities it serves. This should not cause the same kind of concerns people may have about other out-of-town owners,” Borrell said.

One reason, he said, is that GateHouse CEO Reed comes from a community newspaper background and has assembled an executive team that believes in community involvement.

“GateHouse is a public company, so of course it will have to represent growth and profits to Wall Street. But it’s a company that knows profits don’t just come by controlling costs but from being involved in communities and growing newspapers,” Borrell said.

Also, he said, GateHouse is a company that recognizes the continuing value of smaller newspapers. “Smaller market newspapers like the Peoria Journal Star are healthy and will continue to be healthy. That’s because middle America loves their newspapers. GateHouse recognizes this and that’s one reason it focuses on the smaller market,” he said.

Since Copley announced it was selling its Illinois and Ohio newspapers, Local 86, Peoria Newspaper Guild – the union which represents the Journal Star’s editorial and circulation employees – worked to encourage Copley to find a buyer who believes in commitment to journalist excellence and understands the value of a newspaper to its community.

Jennifer Towery, Journal Star neighbors editor and president of Local 86 who spearheaded the “Save The Journal Star” campaign, said, “We were aware of GateHouse’s interest in the Copley chain, so we’re not surprised. The chain only has a few union papers, but they’ve been good to them, so we’re optimistic about the future of the Guild and the three other unions at the Journal Star.

“We’re also pleased that GateHouse knows its strength to be local news and has a commitment to smaller markets. Beyond that, GateHouse is a mystery to us because they are buying so many papers so fast. We hope their growth is smart and controlled, so business decisions don’t rule over journalism.”

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