Jim O’Rourke’s O’Rourke Media Group has strengthened its commitment to print with the acquisition of the Pagosa Springs Sun and ownership of “the last operating printing press in this region”.
The move comes a month after announcing its Essex Reporter would return to print, as part of plans to expand its monthly print and everyday digital strategy in “potentially every town in Chittenden County”.
Terri House, who has owned the Sun for 21 years and been in the business 41 years, says she knew O’Rourke would make a great fit for the paper and Pagosa Springs. He in turn, said he had “such respect and admiration for the work they’ve done serving this community”.
All current employees are being hired, and the Sun will continue to be published each Thursday.
O’Rourke Media Group now operates in eight states and 28 markets with 41 publications and hyperlocal websites. “We started from ground zero in December 2018, totally bootstrapped, confident and with an entrepreneurial mindset,” he says.
The Essex (Vermont) Reporter stopped printing in April 2020 and became digital-only in response to COVID-19 and the loss of some top advertisers, and returned as a monthly print publication on September 1.
“Like just about every other business, we were forced to make decisions to keep our business viable during the pandemic,” O’Rourke says. “In hindsight, discontinuing print was the wrong decision.
“We are intrigued with a monthly print with digital publishing strategy in Essex and Chittenden County. We think readers will love what we have planned, and our locally-based Vermont sales team will be offering businesses omnichannel, affordable advertising opportunities.”
As well as news, the redesigned monthly paper promises space for longer investigative pieces, photography, obituaries, letters to the editor and community-contributed content.
O’Rourke says many communities in Chittenden County are in a danger zone of becoming news deserts. “Our local media playbook is significantly different from other media outlets such as VTDigger, Seven Days and the Burlington Free Press. I could absolutely see us having the largest, most impactful newsroom in Chittenden County over the next several years.”
• And another Sun is on the rise, with the acquisition of the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff by Sierra Vista-based Wick Communications.
Passing the baton is Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, represented in the transaction by Dirks, Van Essen & April. Terms were not disclosed.
Wick Communications –a third-generation family owned and operated media corporation, owns 21 newspaper titles throughout ten western states from Alaska to Louisiana. It owns seven in Arizona and has a half share in four others as a partner in River City Newspapers.
Daily Sun publisher Colleen Brady remains a publisher and all employees have been offered positions with Wick.
The paper originated in 1883 as the Arizona Champion in Peach Springs, and moved to Flagstaff in 1891 as the Coconino Sun and was renamed Arizona Daily
• And Dirks, Van Essen & April has announced the sale of the Bluffton Sun and Hilton Head Sun to a group whose history with South Carolina newspapers dates back to the 1890s.
Jack and Kyle Osteen – part of the family that has owned The Sumter Item since 1894 – have bought the Bluffton-based newspaper group with Vince Johnson, who is group publisher of the Item.
The Osteens and Johnson also own the Lexington County Chronicle in South Carolina and Gulf Coast Media newspapers in Baldwin County, Alabama.