We all know the story of survival of the fittest and how big fish gobble up small fish, and it happened again.
In this context, for the world of media, large Outside companies are understood to have many assets to manage for maximum return on investment. They buy newspapers, radio stations, television studios and “digital Internet assets” to enhance their corporate portfolios. One of those Outside companies with commercial holdings in Alaska is Morris Communications. Morris owns daily newspapers in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, AND Alaska. They own newspapers and digital assets in a total of 11 markets.
No properties on the west coast of the continental U.S.–except in a state Morris executives must pass through Canada to reach. They come to Alaska from Georgia to inspect their properties, meet with Alaska managers, and go fishing.
This year’s salmon run is just about to be over, so perhaps that’s why it is time for the Georgia outfit to sell out its Alaska newspaper holdings.
On August 9, Morris Communications announced it had sold three Alaska newspapers to a bigger fish, GateHouse Media. Two dailies, the Juneau Empire and the Peninsula Clarion, will change ownership as will the weekly Homer News. This move probably ends any speculation that Morris might buy the Anchorage fish wrapper, Alaska Dispatch News.
Morris still owns radio stations in Alaska, including KAYO in Wasilla and Anchorage broadcasting assets KBRJ, KBYR, KEAG, KFQD, KHAR, KMXS, and KWHL. Some of us remember when some of those call letters were locally owned and operated.
The newspaper purchaser, GateHouse Media, has holdings in 36 states and 555 markets. That includes ten states west of the Mississippi River; Oregon, Idaho, California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and North Dakota. The majority of GateHouse Media holdings (25) are east of the Mississippi, including all the East Coast states except for Morris Communications’ headquarters in Georgia.
Other daily newspapers offered in the sale to GateHouse include The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville); The St. Augustine (Fla.) Record; The Savannah (Ga.) Morning News; The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle; The Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald; Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal; Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News; the Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal; Log Cabin Democrat (Conway, Ark.) in addition to the aforementioned Alaska papers. Also, Morris is selling a commercial printing operation in West Texas.
According to the Morris press release: “William S. “Billy” Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications, will remain as publisher of The Augusta Chronicle and will oversee editorial-page policy for the three Morris newspapers in Georgia. Morris said, ‘Since 1929, the Morris family has had a great love and passion for journalism and the local communities that they serve.’”
One of the stated reasons for selling these properties “is part of the company’s strategic restructuring to focus its business on lifestyle and niche publications.”
The Echo News is Alaskan owned and operated. Our parent company is AT Publishing, a family business who actively promotes the best interests of Alaska and Alaskans.
We understand how absentee landlords operate and we remember when the popular saying in this state was: “We don’t care how they do it Outside.” We still don’t care. The differences you see between the ECHO News and our competitors are intentional. We are dedicated to our community – they don’t have to be.
So, here we go again. A bigger fish gobbled up our competitors, and are now going to be wheeling and dealing for market share. They are looking for an Alaskan getaway, not an investment in Alaska.
Meanwhile, our independent newspaper will continue to reflect local values and interests, support our community and offer educational opportunities to our youth.