Advocate sister company buys 14 newspapers


May 30, 2012 at 12:30 a.m.
Updated May 31, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.

The Victoria Advocate family is expanding into East Texas.

The Advocate's new sister company, Texas Community Media, purchased the Longview News-Journal, Marshall News Messenger and 12 weekly newspapers from ASP Westward in a deal that closes soon, company officials announced Wednesday.

Terms regarding the deal were not disclosed.

The East Texas market was attractive because of the papers' long tradition of doing good work within their communities, Advocate co-publisher Dan Easton said.

The region also is similar to the Crossroads, he added.

"We looked at them about three years ago, when they were for sale by Cox," he said, noting it just wasn't right at the time. "But the opportunity came up again and we're excited. We like the market a lot."

ASP Westward CEO Jim Hopson, in a Texas Community Media news release, said he was confident in the newspapers' futures, adding the new company brings knowledge of both Texas and community papers to the table.

The acquisition is the biggest deal to happen in the Advocate's 167-year history, said John Roberts, president and board chairman of the Victoria Advocate Publishing Co. He called the move a great thing not just for the family, but for the staffs of all the papers involved.

"This is huge," he said. "We've basically doubled in size."

The change means new roles for some within the company, Easton said, explaining he will become the Advocate's publisher.

Current Advocate co-publisher Stephen McHaney will serve as president of the new company and will move with his family to Longview as the News-Journal's publisher.

Easton announced the news Wednesday to the Advocate's staff while McHaney was doing the same in Longview.

Tom Stamper, president of East Texas Community Newspapers and publisher of the News-Journal since 2009, is stepping down to pursue other opportunities, according to the release.

"Returning the News-Journal, News Messenger and the rest of the group to local ownership under Texas Community Media is good news for East Texas," he said in the release.

Phil Latham will remain as editor and publisher of the Marshall News Messenger.

Changes mean a new beginning for the company, McHaney said in the release, but the focus will remain on providing a high-quality product to readers and advertisers.

"Our goal is to be more focused than ever on connecting with our communities," he said.

Easton agreed. He said the acquisition is proof that the Advocate ownership believes in community newspapers and community media. The Advocate is the second-oldest daily newspaper in Texas.

He likened the deal to financial guru Warren Buffett's recent newspaper acquisitions and words of encouragement for the industry.

"Hopefully, Warren Buffett and this family are going to be right," Easton said with a smile.



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