Sound Publishing buys Juneau Empire

Seattle-based owners add three Alaska newspapers and the Capital City Weekly to their 49 publications

Seattle-based Sound Publishing, Inc., announced today its purchase of the Juneau Empire and Capital City Weekly from GateHouse Media.

 

Sound Publishing President Gloria Fletcher broke the news to Empire and CCW staff at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The new owners steward a group of 49 publications in the greater Puget Sound Region.

Sound Publishing is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Black Press, a Victoria, British Columbia company with publications in Canada, Washington, Hawaii and California.

Founded in 1975 by current chairman and owner David Black, Black Press owns over 150 publications total.

Juneau Empire Publisher Joe Leong, who is also publisher of GateHouse Media’s other two Alaska holdings, the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai and Homer News, will be staying with GateHouse Media. He said he will be relocating to GateHouse Western Division headquarters in the Lower 48. It is not yet known who will be replacing Leong.

“I have absolutely enjoyed my time here, and the people I’ve worked with have been phenomenal,” Leong said. “The community of Juneau has been welcoming and although my time here has been short, I’ll miss it tremendously.”

With the purchase, Sound Publishing also acquired the Peninsula Clarion and Homer News from GateHouse.

Fletcher told Empire staff there are not any major changes planned right now.

The 105-year-old Empire was founded in 1912 by John Franklin Alexander Strong, a Canadian who moved his printing press from the gold rush town of Iditarod to start the earliest iteration of the Empire. Strong, of New Brunswick, came to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. He worked as a reporter in Skagway and founded newspapers in Nome and Iditarod before coming to Juneau.

The Empire remained independently owned until March 20, 1969, when Southeastern Newspapers Corp., owned by William Morris III of Augusta, Georgia, purchased the Empire. Southeastern Newspapers Corp. and its successor companies owned the Empire until August 2017, when it was sold to GateHouse Media.

The Capital City Weekly is the Empire’s sister publication that covers arts and culture in Juneau, and is also based out of the Juneau Empire building on Channel Drive.

Q&A with Sound Publishing President Gloria Fletcher:

Kevin Gullufsen: Why purchase the Juneau Empire?

Gloria Fletcher: Kind of like what I said earlier when we were meeting with the employees, is we value community journalism. The local information that is important to Juneau, and to Kenai and to Homer. It’s what we do.

By community journalism, what’s your sense, how is that different from other newspapers?

Intensely local. So when I am talking about community journalism I am talking about that local connection.

What attracted you to purchasing the Alaska papers?

They fit, they’re great publications. We always try to grow in an area that makes sense. We don’t acquire newspapers to acquire them. We acquire newspapers when they are good and valued and it’s a wise business decision. We are not a holding company, we are an in owned and operated company.

How does this typically go and how many newspapers have you purchased in recent years?

We purchased The Daily Herald (Everett, Washington) from the Washington Post four years ago. We purchased the Seattle Weekly at the same time. Another small group was purchased three years ago.

Again, we are interested in acquiring newspaper when they work in our geographic area, and while Alaska is a new state for us, it’s not that far, and it has a lot of synergies with Sound Publishing.

What allows you to expand and purchase newspapers in a financially tough time for the industry?

We’re a news organization. And we believe that people will always want and value the news. We believe in print, but we also believe in digital. So there are many people who still want their news delivered in print. There is a growing group of people who want their news digitally. So while the industry certainly is in a transformation, news is always the valuable factor. Digital and print, those are just distribution mechanisms.

What’s your philosophy toward separation between the business side of journalism and editorial? Would we ever see any pressure in the newsroom to do things a certain way?

We want the news to be delivered in a way that is informative, factual and credible in your community. Would we ever ask you to write something specific because it fits a business practice? No.

Will there be budget cuts or layoffs?

Right now I don’t know because we’re still learning about these businesses.

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