Homer News, Clarion and Empire change hands again

Apr 11, 2018

Credit Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

The Peninsula Clarion, Juneau Empire and weekly Homer News are being acquired by a Canadian chain just six months after being sold to GateHouse Media.

The Alaska papers were sold by longtime owner Morris Communications for $120 million last fall.

The newest owner is Sound Publishing, a Seattle-based subsidiary that owns papers in the states of Washington, California and Hawaii. It's a subsidiary of Black Press, based in British Columbia.

In recent months, the trio of Alaska papers shared a top executive. But he's staying with GateHouse

Outgoing Publisher Joe Leong said Wednesday he'll be leaving Alaska at the end of the month.

But he said he's optimistic about the three papers' future.

“I think just like GateHouse, Sound Publishing is committed to reporting news for the community and being involved in the community,” Leong said.

His replacement hasn't been announced. Nor have the new owners made any specific commitments over staffing or other resources. But Leong said there isn't much fat to trim.

“You know, we all run lean operations as it is, but they need to review the operation and take a look for themselves,” he said.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. But in a related development, the Akron Beacon Journal also announced Wednesday that Black Press was selling the daily newspaper to GateHouse Media for a reported $16 million.

news release said the deal helps the two chains cluster their holdings more closely. Black Press has newspapers in the Pacific Northwest; GateHouse Media owns other small papers in Ohio.

Unifor 2000 is a B.C.-based union that represents about 600 newspaper employees throughout the province and over a dozen Black Press publications.

Unifor President Brian Gibson says Black Press has cut costs at some of its publications by using regional publishers and hubs for creative work.

“There’s one hub I think right near Alberta, and I there’s another hub in Everett, Washington that does the creative work for multiple papers, building ads, that kind of thing,” he said.

Black Press is unconnected to the Canadian former media mogul Conrad Black. The chain made media news in 2010 when it closed a pair of newspapers in B.C. two weeks after buying them.

Over the years it's also shuttered a newspaper in Washington and merged two daily newspapers in Honolulu with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, its largest holding.

Correction: In a previous version of this story, it was state incorrectly that former media mogul Conrad Black was deceased. He's still alive and 73 years old. 

This story has been updated to reflect new information about Black Press selling the Akron Beacon Journal to GateHouse and comments from former publisher Joe Leong.