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Empire publisher announces coming changes

Gov. Parnell, company CEO spoke at 100th anniversary open house

Posted: November 16, 2012 - 1:05am
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Alaska Governor Sean Parnell speaks during the Juneau Empire's 100 Anniversary Celebration on Thursday. The Empire publisher, Mark Bryan, is right.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell speaks during the Juneau Empire's 100 Anniversary Celebration on Thursday. The Empire publisher, Mark Bryan, is right.

Next year, the Juneau Empire will undergo a redesign and implement a system under which readers will pay for Web content, publisher Mark Bryan said Thursday evening at the newspaper’s 100th anniversary celebration.

The Empire opened its doors to the public Thursday afternoon, giving readers access to its Channel Drive office and press room, as the capstone event in its commemoration of 100 years in business.

Bryan talked about the Empire’s evolution over those 100 years, indicating the front pages from throughout the newspaper’s history that were arranged around the first and second floor of the building.

“What’s vitally important for a community newspaper like the Juneau Empire is that we provide you some of that (national news) information, but local news is our niche. This is what you need. You’re not going to get it anywhere else. We’re the only ones that can provide that to you,” Bryan said. “So that’s a significant difference between 100 years ago and today.”

Among the changes that are coming to the Empire, Bryan said, is a paid subscription model for online content.

“The old model is not sustainable,” said Bryan. “The Juneau Empire will be transitioning to what we call an ‘all-access membership program’ in early second quarter of 2013. Print subscribers will be able to use their subscription to activate us online and be able to continue reading us. Digital-only … readers will have metered access to juneauempire.com, allowing for a few pages to be read every month before payment will be required.”

Bryan added, “Of course, we’ll offer digital subscriptions for those who want to read and interact on our website. Mobile and tablet versions will follow.”

The paper will also undergo a “complete redesign” early next year, Bryan said.

“The landscape has evolved, and we need to evolve to be able to meet our readers’ and our advertisers’ needs,” Bryan said. “Over the next few months, we’re going to be inviting our readers to tell us what they like, what they want in their newspaper.”

Bryan said information gathered from tracking patterns of usage by Web visitors to juneauempire.com is also being considered as the newspaper looks for ways to improve itself.

Gov. Sean Parnell and the first lady, Sandy Parnell, also attended the open house. Gov. Parnell emphasized the value of a free press in American democracy in his remarks, while congratulating the Empire on its longevity and service to the community.

“You know, lots of times, I disagree with the press. Lots of times, they disagree with me. And many other politicians and elected officials would feel the same,” said Parnell, to chuckles. “But the thing I do love about our country is that we do have a press that can report facts, and in my estimation, the Juneau Empire has been a pillar in Alaska for that.”

Colleen McCowan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s field office director in Juneau, also spoke at the event, reading the senator’s remarks from the Senate floor earlier this week that she had entered into the congressional record to acknowledge the Empire’s anniversary.

“On behalf of my Senate colleagues, I congratulate the staff of the Juneau Empire on the occasion of the newspaper’s 100th birthday and wish the Juneau Empire many more years of service to the people of Alaska,” Murkowski’s statement concluded.

The chairman and chief executive officer of Morris Communications Co., William “Billy” Morris III, and his wife Sissy also spoke briefly by telephone from Augusta, Ga.

“What a joy and a privilege it is for our company to own and operate the Juneau Empire, the newspaper that has served a wonderful community for 100 years,” Billy Morris said. “As we all know, this city was founded by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris in 1880 as a mining town in the early days of gold prospecting. It is a unique city, bounded by mountain and sea, accessible only by air and ship. It is a city whose magnificent beauty draws millions of visitors each year. And it is a city of cultural diversity that thrives on pioneer spirit and rugged charm.

“From its early days, Juneau has understood the importance of the press. Only seven years after the city was founded, the first newspaper was printed here. Over the years, there have been several different news publications. The Juneau Empire, whose distinguished lineage dates back to November of 1912, has the longest publication history,” Morris continued

In the late 1960s, when our newspaper company purchased the Juneau Empire, our family began a lifelong love affair with Alaska. Our daughter, Susie, lived and worked here for several years. She met her husband here and their first child was born in Alaska. Now, more than 40 years since we first came to Juneau, we still visit frequently and always enjoy the time we can spend here with you.

Morris concluded, “It’s a great honor for my family and for our newspaper family to have the friendship and the support of this great community, and the privilege to serve you every day with news, features, stories, essential information and important advertising. We look forward to many, many more years of service to Juneau.”

The open house was well attended throughout the afternoon and featured demonstrations of the printing press, as well as tours of the building, which houses a collection of Alaska art on the first and second floors.

The Crimson Quartet of the Juneau String Ensembles provided music, while Yees Ku Oo performed multicultural Native dances.

Go to www.juneauempire.com for more photos and video of this event, and click on our 100th Anniversary section online to find historic front pages and more.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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